Weary Sonoma County residents search for solace, a ring in the ashes

- Some Sonoma County wildfire victims finally had a Sunday without fire and smoke. Santa Rosa resident Bruce Francisco spent his sifting through his home’s remains looking for a ring he gave his wife 20 years ago.

“These air conditioners were 20 years old. I was going to have to replace them anyway," Bruce Francisco said, laughing as he walked through his Fountain Grove property with his brother.

Two weeks after fleeing his home, Francisco came back on Sunday with a sense of humor and motivation to recover the ring.

"Monday [October 9] was a shock," said Francisco. "We drove up. We thought our house would be here. And it wasn't here."

Francisco's two story home was leveled by the Tubbs Fire. He was woken Sunday, October 8 at two in the morning by his neighbor and brother Shane about the approaching wildfire.

"When I looked outside, I just saw this huge column of smoke and knew we had to leave," said Francisco.

He and his wife only grabbed their dog and wallets when they drove off.

"Just wish we had grabbed it [the ring] before we left," Francisco said as he filtered through ashes and metal in what used to be the master bedroom. "We hope the jewelry didn't melt. We'll see."

Elsewhere in Santa Rosa, church services continued, but this Sunday the lead pastor for Santa Rosa Christian Church said the congregation showed up early and stayed late after the sermon.

"I think the people were just excited to be together," said pastor Steve Marshall. "That wanting to be back in relationship, because there's so much social displacement."

Two weeks after the fires broke out, Marshall said the main concern today is finding permanent housing.

"We still have people at the Oxford Inns or hotels," said Marshall. "Many left the community to go south to Petaluma and Novato and that's hard. It takes them that much further away from their families, their schools, their neighborhoods."

Santa Rosa fire victims were told state clean-up crews were likely to start clearing debris in January. Those who lost their homes are now left wondering how long it will take them to rebuild their houses.

"You've got 5,000 homes to build. You can't build them all at once," said Francisco. "So, I don't know. A year? Two years?"

Francisco said it's still too early to negotiate with contractors, so for now he's just focused on finding that ring.

"We would love to find it. It would be worth finding it."

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