In total, over 1,300 structures were destroyed. Now the residents of Coffey Park face not only the challenges of rebuilding
their own homes, but the further expense of removing and
replacing the damaged wall lining their properties. Thompson
estimates the cost at $25,000 per parcel owner — and at first,
she wasn’t sure there was anything Rebuild could do to help.
“We’re not magical,” Thompsons says. “We have no
capes, but if we have the access and ability to make a dif-
ference, that’s what we’re going to do.”
When the debris removal company AshBritt consulted
Thompson about how it might help the recovery efforts,
she mentioned the Coffey Park walls. With Rebuild serving
as a fund manager, AshBritt agreed to donate $450,000.
Thompson then secured the services of local attorney
Martin Hirsch, who donated his fees to get the necessary
paperwork filed. The project is underway and expected to
take three months to complete.
Representatives for two other nearby subdivisions —
Mark West and Lakefield — saw what Rebuild was doing
and contacted Thompson to see if they too could get help
with some common fencing issues the fires had left behind.
“I’m not a fence fairy,” Thompson recalls thinking, but it
was then that Habitat for Humanity Sonoma County called
her to see if she needed any additional resources for the
Coffey Park project. “I said, ‘ Why don’t we work together
on helping these other two subdivisions? Let’s just see
what’s possible.’ ”
Thompson met with community block captains and
meanwhile received another well-timed call — this one from
Barry Friedman of Friedman’s Home Improvement. He
told Thompson he’d had vendors waiting since the fires had
started for a chance to help. The material donations to aid
Mark West and Lakefield with fencing fell into place. At press
time, more funding was still required to keep the project on
track as difficulties with the terrain were adding costs.
“Sonoma Clean Power gave a $200,000 grant for that proj-
ect, and NorCal Ford and the Ford Foundation gave grants as
well,” Thompson says. “It’s an example of the role the private
sector can play in our recovery to fill gaps, and proof that they
want to play that role. There’s a lot of generosity and talent
out there, and it’s our job to pair the private sector with the
public and nonprofit sectors to get all of this done.”
Thompson also sees the Coffey Park walls as a “visual
deliverable” — a physical sign of progress that can be
pointed to as a milestone on the march to recovery. “We
desperately want one tangible community-based project
completed or nearing completion by the anniversary.
“A fence is not that sexy, I know,” Thompson says, “but
it means a lot to the person behind it.”
AMONG REBUILD NORTH BAY Foundation’s other proj-
ects: establishing a website that can serve as a one-stop
information hub; continuing to lobby in Washington,
D.C.; visiting cities like San Diego that have previously
endured disasters of their own to learn what does and
doesn’t work; and documenting Rebuild’s own efforts so
that other cities and counties can use its work as a blue-
print in future emergencies.
Of course, it’s also vital to remember that behind
the statistics and acronyms are real-life human beings.
Despite the incredible display of resiliency and strength
the North Bay has shown, there are still many dealing with
the mourning that comes with such profound loss.
“The trauma is still very much with us,” Thompson
says. “Our vineyards are fine, and our tourism economy is
doing just fine, but we have to keep our focus on what our
Ultimately, there will be no quick fixes for the dev-
astation wrought by last fall’s wildfires, but in lieu of a
cheat sheet with all the answers for a successful recov-
ery, Rebuild North Bay now looks to the communities
themselves as its guiding force.
“I think the most amazing thing that happened during
the fires is it really tested who we are as a community,”
Thompson suggests. “It tested what we would do for each
other, which turned out to be anything necessary. I think
those lessons will stay with us, but we also need everybody
to remember that their talents and generosity will still be
needed in the years to come.
“It’s especially important for people who have lost their
homes to not feel alone,” she adds. “We can’t just turn our
eyes away and allow that to occur. We have to stay with our
community all the way through, which means donating
our time, donating our funds and donating our services. If
you don’t live here, then please remember that economi-
cally we still need you, and we welcome you here.” m
OUR CONCERN IS THAT IN SIX
MONTHS OR IN A YEAR OR IN
TWO YEARS, WHEN IT’S NO
LONGER IN THE NEWS, PEOPLE
WON’T BE PAYING ATTENTION —
AND YET THAT’S WHEN THE
TRUE REBUILDING BEGINS.