In 2017, thousands of homes in Santa Rosa, California, were wiped off the map. Now the community is helping residents cope with the trauma
The nightmares kept coming and David Leal knew he was in trouble. A navy veteran with a can-do attitude and a solidly middle-class IT job at a hospital in Santa Rosa, California, he didn’t think of himself as mentally vulnerable. But when the Tubbs fire snatched his house off the face of the earth in the early morning hours of 9 October 2017, it hit him hard.
“Long story short, I went through a lot of PTSD,” Leal says, as we tour his nearly rebuilt home in Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood. Wildfires are not uncommon in the mountains outside of this northern California town, but residents can’t remember one like this: the fire jumped six lanes of Highway 101, into the city, and licked up about 1,300 of the suburb’s 2,000 homes as if they’d just evaporated. Leal thought, I live in the city; it’s not supposed to burn.