HEALDSBURG, Calif. - In downtown Healdsburg Friday, residents and business owners gathered at the town plaza to hold a belated trick or treat. But mostly they wanted to thank the first responders for saving the town from the Kincade Fire.
People wrote messages of gratitude on a giant white board in multiple languages.
"Thank you for everything. When we left town we didn't know if we could come back. The fire was a quarter-mile from our house," said Stu Matlow.
After enduring an evacuation of the entire town, Healdsburg is trying to climb back into normalcy. Open for business signs are all over downtown as messages of appreciation.
At Mateo's restauarant, the owner had to throw away $12,000 worth of food spoiled during the evacuation.
"Having all this food, all this lamb go to the garbage. It was heartbreaking. But more important is that our community is safe," said owner Mateo Granados. He said he won't keep that much inventory on hand anymore, especially during fire season.
"Learning to live in California," he said.
At the boutique Hotel Les Mars, cancellations are up, occupancy is down.
"There's a little bit of fear in the traveler at this point. We are trying to remind everyone we are a very safe place to come to," said hotel general manager Brian Sommer.
Many here believe national media coverage has given the perception the entire region is on fire. And it's hard to fight perception.
The Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce is looking to get the message out.
"We are doing a PR campaign. Healdsburg is open for business," said chamber executive director Tallia Hart.
It may take time. Still residents are starting to settle into a daily routines. The kids are back at school.
Every resident of Healdsburg now shares one thing on common. They all had to leave not knowing if their homes or businesses would be here when they returned.
But many say that bond has made their town stronger than it's ever been.