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One year since the fires, a community rebuilds

Angela Johnston
The Larkfield Estates neighborhood has dozens of new homes popping up a year post-fire.

It’s been just over a year since a number of fires devastated areas of Sonoma, Napa, and other northern counties.The Tubbs fire, which began in Calistoga, flattened over 4,000 homes and killed 22 people, making it the most destructive wildfire in California history.Now, homeowners are rebuilding, wineries are re-opening, and communities are picking up the pieces. KALW’s Ninna Gaensler-Debs and Angela Johnston reported on the fires a year ago. They join us for an update.

I talked to one recipient recently who lost everything. He woke up, saw smoke, grabbed his kids, and left - and the next time they came back, their house was burned to the ground. Actually, his wife delayed enough to bang on the doors of several of their elderly neighbors and likely helped save their lives. Anyways, now a year later, they are renting a new place, with the help of those funds, and it’s furnished almost entirely with donations from other people in the community. But he told me that he’s still grappling with lingering trauma - recently his garage malfunctioned and started smoking, and when his kids yelled and he ran outside and saw smoke, he said he totally panicked, and couldn’t stop crying. It brought him right back to that moment a year ago when he woke up.


Angela Johnston is the Senior Producer of Uncuffed and an editor in the KALW newsroom. She holds a Master’s degree in journalism and graduated from KALW’s Audio Academy program. She’s worked for KALW in numerous roles - from the deputy news director, to the health and environment reporter, and she's covered everything from lead poisoning to climate change. Her work has aired on KALW, KQED, Reveal, and The Pulse. She also freelances as a producer and editor for Cosmic Standard and AFAR Media. Outside of work, she loves to swim in the bay, surf small waves on her longboard, read, backpack, cook, and garden.
Ninna Gaensler-Debs is a reporter and editor for Crosscurrents. Since 2012, Ninna has worn a variety of hats at KALW - she was both a producer and event planner for Localore project Hear Here. Ninna also programmed and organized the Sights and Sounds live events - two in Bayview, and most recently, one in East Oakland.