Christmas in Coffey Park: Lights illuminate some completed homes destroyed by Oct 2017 wildfire

Santa Rosa's Coffey Park is lit up with holiday lights, but this year, many are strung on completed homes, not just charred lots.

Fire survivors, fortunate enough to move in by Christmas, are exulting. 

"Last year we were in a one-bedroom apartment," Chris Kern told KTVU, as he hung curtains in the kitchen of his new home on Hopper Avenue. 

The exterior of the 3-bedroom home is decorated with icicle lights, a Christmas tree and an illuminated manger. 

Like so many who lost homes, the Kerns, last December, popped a Christmas tree onto their burned-out property and posed for a photo with their two grown daughters. 

It was a way to salvage some holiday spirit.  

Now, as the couple gets used to their new home, they see structures around them moving toward completion. 

"Our friend down the street just decorated, so by next Christmas it should be looking pretty good," said Chris, "but it's going to be a new normal. Nothing is normal anymore." 

Even with construction crews working long days, there are many homes that won't be ready by the holidays, in spite of the effort. 

Some unfinished houses have trees and wreathes on them, hinting at the families still living elsewhere. 

"God had his own timing and when I need to come into my home, I will," fire survivor Norma Raygoza told KTVU, as she surveyed progress on her house.  

She and husband Eloy broke ground on their 4-bedroom home in July, and expected to be in by now.
But they are building a custom design, larger than the previous house, and have also encountered delays getting materials, permits, inspections and workers.        

"People will say we commit, we'll start your project on this date, and they're so busy, they don't really care," said Norma. 

Rather than dwell on a date, she says they think about how far they've come, after moving four times in the past year. 

She has promised her three children they will have a second Christmas celebration when they move-in next month. 

"I need to enjoy what we've accomplished here so far, and enjoy my family, and just take it one day at a time." 

As the Kerns decorate their new home, they find it brings up emotions from the October 2017 fire. 
Remembering treasured family decorations, that were destroyed, is difficult. 

"It's hard, but to be decorating with the kids is still fun, " said Cora Kern. 

She noted, the family is beginning fresh traditions with new theme ornaments, and a handmade angel tree-topper. 

A friend also gave them a carved "Sonoma Strong" ornament. 

The family missed moving in by Thanksgiving by just a few days, but appreciates that it happened for Christmas. 

"It's still good, we're in before the end of the year, and we're glad that we're home," said Cora Kern.