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A place called home: A year after the Tubbs Fire, displaced families can finally look ahead [SF Chronicle]

About this series: One year ago, more than a dozen fires shot to life in the North Bay. One of them, the Tubbs Fire, would become the most destructive wildfire in California history. In the year since, The Chronicle’s Lizzie Johnson has spent hundreds of hours with two couples to report this series, witnessing some of the most intimate, heartbreaking and joyous moments as they rebuilt their lives

California was on fire again.

Through this past summer, blazes raged across the state. They threatened cities and hamlets and shut down a national park. Melissa Geissinger couldn’t watch the news anymore. It was too triggering.

It tugged her back to early Oct. 9, when the Tubbs Fire blitzed Santa Rosa. Snap. She is in her home in Coffey Park, trying to corral the cats into carriers, clutching the flashlight on her cell phone, and the fire is bearing down.

Her heart races. But no — that was nearly a year ago. It isn’t real.

Here is what people didn’t tell her about wildfires: After the flames die down and the news crews leave, she would be left to grapple with the tragedy. Healing would come, but slowly, so slowly. The collective emotional trauma wouldn’t disappear.

But no one told Melissa that. Who could have?

In June, she and her husband, Cole, had dinner at their friends’ home in Shiloh Ridge. Lance and Barbara Cottrell’s place looked northeast toward Mark West Springs and had almost been destroyed by the Tubbs Fire. They evacuated to Melissa and Cole’s home in Coffey Park, only to have to flee again when the fire arrived there.

The Cottrells had gotten lucky. The wind shifted and their home was spared.

Now, they were hosting a party for everyone who had crammed into Nancy and Ron Crain’s home last October. They had nicknamed Melissa’s parents’ house in Sebastopol “the Crain Compound” because so many evacuees were camping on air mattresses in their living room. The talk circled back, again and again, to what had survived and what had been lost.

It was easy and comfortable — the type of conversation that was becoming more difficult for Melissa to initiate as the rest of the world moved on. Fire fatigue had set in, and people had begun to rush past the Tubbs in conversations......

To read the full article, written by Lizzie Johnson, click HERE

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