Family rebuilds after California wildfire; a small things, like mowing a lawn, feels like a blessing

It’s the first mow of the spring, so forgive Santa Rosa’s Tom Stewart if he’s a little giddy.

“I’m still mowing the lawn," he said. "That’s such a good feeling!"

That new lawn sits in front of Stewart’s brand new home Coffey Park home. It's a far cry from KTVU's visit  in May of 2018 when lawn was all that was left of his North Bay home.

Exactly 492 days after the Tubbs fire ravaged the entire neighborhood, Stewart and his wife, Tanya, and grandson Colton are finally back home.  

“It’s almost surreal as what the fire was," Stewart said. "You have it, but don’t fully comprehend that you got it, that it’s really here."  

The turning point came on Feb. 12, and the family's smiles tell a story of a long journey together.

For nearly 16 months, the Stewarts lived in a motorhome across the street. They spent their days watching and waiting as they witnessed their new forever home come alive again.

What was once an empty lonely lot suddenly came to be.   From the foundation to the framing they saw it all.  

“It’s almost indescribable that we were able to do that.   Everyday. Almost every wall.  Slowly, slowly coming into our view.  To watch that and get the keys was amazing,” Stewart said.

Their new 2,200-square-foot home is twice the size.  Spacious 10 foot ceilings. Huge bedrooms.  Everything is new again from their toaster to their silverware.   And after 400-plus nights in a cozy home on wheels one room in particular has become their favorite.

“It feels nice to take a bath again. You mean you didn’t have one these soaking tubs in your motorhome??   No our bathroom is actually bigger than our motorhome,” Tanya Stewart said.

 Forever grateful, the Stewarts will never forget that fateful October night in 2017.  They lost everything in the fire.  Tanya Stewart’s wedding ring. Her husband's prized PT Cruiser -- all gone.

 The only thing that survived was a pond full of fish.  It’s been emotional ride with lessons learned along the way.

 “Be thankful for what you have until it’s gone.  So now I appreciate everything I have so if it’s gone tomorrow I’ve had it,” Tanya Stewart said. 

In all, 191 homes in Coffey Park have been completed while 689 of the 1,400 homes lost are in the process of being rebuilt.  

That means 70 percent of Coffey Park homeowners have either moved in or will this by the end of this year.

The neighborhood is coming back and for the Stewarts it’s something that didn’t seem possible back in 2017 as they now make memories in their new home.

 “Every room starting with the front door though the family room I take pause to look at this beautiful home," Stewart said. "To look and realize that it’s not only real but we are here.  We’re finally home."