The year 2017 marked a turning point in my family's life in my hometown of Santa Rosa, California. It was the year I had just graduated from college, and I was in my first semester of graduate school in San Francisco. It also became the year that I lost my childhood home and the year I almost lost my father. I was in San Francisco the night of the Tubbs Fire, and thankfully, so were my mother and grandmother who were visiting me from Santa Rosa. My father, unfortunately, had to stay behind because of a doctor’s appointment.
My father did not hear the initial evacuation orders the night of October 8. He also did not hear our neighbors pounding on the front door in an attempt to wake him up. While everyone had evacuated hours before, my father was sound asleep, unaware of the impending danger. It wasn't until around 2 a.m. that he was jolted awake by a call from my mother. She had just received a call from my cousin, who informed her that one of our businesses in Coffee Park, a completely separate part of Santa Rosa from where our house was, had burned down. My mother's call was not intended to warn my father of impending danger but to inform him about what happened to our business. However, as he peered out the bedroom window while talking to my mom on the phone, he saw our neighbor's roof completely engulfed in flames.
With a sense of urgency that can only be born from imminent danger, my father realized that he had only minutes to escape. He rushed down the stairs in the dark to the garage, only to find that the power was out. With adrenaline coursing through his veins, he manually pushed the garage door up and without even taking the time to put on shoes, he leaped into his car and backed out of the driveway.
As he drove into the night, the horrors of the Tubbs Fire unfolded before him. All of the houses on both sides of the street were engulfed in flames. Visibility was reduced to a mere five feet in front of him as he navigated his way down the winding road out of Fountaingrove. The air was thick with smoke and embers, creating an apocalyptic landscape that he said is forever burned into the back of his mind. Despite the perilous conditions, my father pressed on, his instincts and determination guiding him. With each passing moment, the distance between him and the fire widened, and he eventually reached safety.
In the days that followed, my family and I watched news reports detailing the devastation caused by the Tubbs Fire. We were not allowed back to our home for days, and we only discovered that our home was among the thousands reduced to ashes through Google Maps satellite imagery. The process of rebuilding was a daunting one. With no home to return to in Santa Rosa, my family had to move into my San Francisco apartment. It was a period of adjustment, resilience, and patience as we rebuilt from the ground up. Today, we have risen from the ashes, having rebuilt in Santa Rosa. The scars from that devastating night remain, but they serve as a testament to our strength and resilience, and a reminder that nothing is more important than family, friends, and the people you love remaining alive and healthy.