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3438 Santiago Drive
Santa Rosa, CA
We had taken our 4 year old son to Disneyland the week previous to the fire and got back home on Saturday evening. Our son got sick a couple of days before we left for Disneyland and was sick the whole time we were there. I had taken him to his doctors office on Sunday morning. He needed antibiotics for his ear, sinus, and chest infections. We were all exhausted from the trip, so I'm amazed we woke up. The smoke woke me at first, but when my husband looked online it said it was up in Fountain Grove, so we didn't think much about it. A while later some honking woke me, or else I shudder to think what could have been. We were all so wiped out from the trip and from my son being ill. I got a call from two co-workers who live in a newer subdivision a few blocks away, telling me to evacuate and that they were leaving. With our son asleep upstairs, we quickly dressed. I grabbed our box with passports, and important documents, while my husband took our external hard drive with all our sons pictures on it. We thought about our friends and young daughter who live next door and wanted to warn them. My husband ran out the front door. I was close behind, trying to shout to him through the howling wind and explosions going off all around us, to tell him that our neighbors car was gone and to come back. That 60 mph wind whipped around and just as I had stepped out the door, the wind slammed our door shut and it was locked. My son was asleep, trapped inside, and pure panic set in. I couldn't see actual flames, but I could feel heat and saw the whole sky was red/orange and you could see it was coming from behind a row of homes at the end of our street. I was pounding on the doors and windows so hard that I broke my pinkie knuckle, trying to wake my son, and to break in. My husband went on one side of the house trying to find a way in while I was at the other side of the house. Frantic, I tore off a plank of wood from our back gate to try to break in to our glass French doors or a window. Finally my husband managed to break into the garage, he got into our attic, he ripped out insulation, and kicked through drywall into our spare bedroom. We woke our son. He was so confused and groggy. As I'm trying to get some clothes on him, the power went out, which upset my son, and he was getting very scared. At that point, all that mattered to me was him and getting him out safe. I planned on getting him into the car and going back to grab a few things, but by then, as we walked outside, the house at the bottom of San Sonita and our street were up in flames. Huge embers were falling in our yard and all around us. When those embers were landing in the dry leaves that had fallen from our tree. I think I knew then our house would not survive. Keith was planning to use our hose and try to water the yard, but at that point the wind was gusting and the house on the corner was lit up, blazing away, and the wind picked up. It reminded me of a flame thrower with fire coming down our street. As we drove off, we could see the fire coming towards us. At that point, we just wanted our son out and safe. Only later was I mentally kicking myself for not grabbing other important things. We drove and managed to get the last room at Courtyard Marriott for the night/day around 4:30am. We are safe and alive. I have no immediate family, my husband is from England, and they all still living in the U.K. We felt so alone, in shock, and we had no idea what to do. The learning curve for victims of disasters is incredibly high. We tried to cope with our own trauma, our 4 year old and his trauma, and navigate all of this complex insurance stuff. But what has been incredible and unbelievable about this disaster is this community; friends and strangers alike who have helped us, and in so many ways. This tragedy has brought out the best in a lot of people and it is what kept us going. On Monday afternoon, after we learned what we knew in our hearts; our house and everything we had saved, kept, and treasured, was gone.
We are lucky. We have each other, the 3 of us, and we have a new family, literally tons of people who now have done incredible things for us. People giving us toiletries, clothing, a hot meal, love, support, or have just spent some time with us. They have helped us find some sense of normalcy, when everything is a new normal. I don't know where we will be in a month, or 3 from now, but I do know a lot of people have our backs, and that feels good. Home used to be our safe place, we now have no home, no sanctuary. Home is our little family, wherever we are. I am so grateful to anyone and everyone who has helped us and continues to help us.