The Tubbs Fire Devastated My Parents’ Community

SANTA ROSA -- My parents live on a hillside with a beautiful view in east Santa Rosa.

"See that? It's called a saddle, saddleback in the hills, and I could see the flames flickering above through that," my dad said.

It soon became clear to them what the flicker was.

"That big orange glow," he said. "All night we watched that burn. That is Coffey Park burning."

Coffey Park was one of the neighborhoods most devastated by the Tubbs Fire. It was a place some of my family's best friends called home for 40 years.

"These houses imploded, one after another, from the heat," he said. "It looked like someone dropped a bomb."

We asked my dad to drive us there, but I wanted to make a stop along the way -- Paradise Ridge Winery.

Nestled at the top of the burning mountain was the winery where my wife and I got married 21 years ago. In a matter of hours, all that was left was burned out remnants of a place that will forever remind me of one of the best days of my life.

But Santa Rosa is rebuilding.

Jim and Donna Carlson were on vacation when their Coffey Park home burned.

"There's a fire, there's a hydrant right outside of our house," Donna remembers thinking. "I'm sure everything will be OK."

That wasn't the case.

"This was a neighborhood that I did not recognize. This was apocalyptic. This was like like an atomic bomb went off," she said.

A warzone, Jim called it.

But out of that devastation, the Carlsons are rising.

"It still hits me from time to time. I just want to go home," Donna said. "Well, this will be our new home. That's what we are looking forward to."

As for mom and dad, they evacuated and returned four days later to a home still standing.

"The fires were just popping up all around us and we were in the center of it but it never got to us," my dad told us. "Thankful? Yes."