(KRON) — The 2017 Tubbs Fire that ravaged Napa and Sonoma counties was the most destructive wildfire in California state history at the time.
Around 6,000 buildings were burned to the ground and more than 20 people were killed. It took four months to contain every inch of the blaze that spanned 36,000 acres.
Although many survivors still struggle to cope with the loss all these years later, there is a very strong bond and sense of camaraderie that has grown in the North Bay where survivors stayed to rebuild.
Tens of thousands of people woke up to the sounds of sirens and crackling flames in the early morning hours on October 8, 2017. It was a dark, uncomfortably warm night, met with ferocious winds that pushed flames across Sonoma and Napa counties.
People were forced to abandon their homes and the lives they knew within minutes. “This is probably the most catastrophic event that I’ve ever been through in my life and I think it will leave a mark on the community and myself for years to come,” said one resident back in 2017.
Five years later that sentiment holds true with survivors still trying to get through the trauma together.
“It’s still happening five years later and now we get together every other week and do breath work we connect we release we’re really connected,” said Monica Bravo, Tubbs Fire survivor.
Bravo’s home in Fountain Grove was one of thousands of buildings leveled by what was later dubbed the Tubbs fire. Bravo recently took her kids out to ice cream to kick off the weekend and enjoy the sunshine, but even then they couldn’t help but be conscious of the dry heat.
“They were like, ‘Well, let’s just pray that it rains,'” said Bravo. Many first responders learned that their own homes were consumed by the flames while they worked to protect other people’s property.
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“It was incredible sight to see how many people were focused not just on their own situation but focused on making sure that they were continuing to respond to the needs of the community, said Paul Lowenthal, Santa Rosa Fire Department. Lowenthal learned about his own home burning while battling the Tubbs Fire blaze attacking other homes.
A lot of people packed up and left the area altogether, but others like Bravo stayed back to rebuild and bond with other survivors who grew into a powerful sense of camaraderie. “Knowing that my community gave me so much I wanted to give back,” said Bravo.
Lowenthal said Santa Rosa is better positioned today to confront a disaster because of lessons learned in the Tubbs fire. “Here’s just been a tremendous amount of improvements that have been made here locally, to make cities like Santa Rosa better prepared again for wildfires,” said Lowenthal.
This Saturday, the City of Santa Rosa is hosting a five-year event in Coffey Park at 10 a.m. The mayor, Board of Supervisors, California Offices of Emergency Services director, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Congressman Jared Huffman and Senator Mike McGuire are expected to attend.