SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KTVU) - A North Bay community experienced the true meaning of the holiday spirit Saturday night.
Hundreds of residents who had homes in the Coffey Park section of Santa Rosa lost their homes and everything in them, in October's wildfires. But they may have gained something more valuable -- a true sense of community.
Out of the darkness enveloping that neighborhood, there is light fueled by neighborly love.
"The spirit is great. it's really nice to have all this happening. it makes you feel happy," said Coffey Park resident Allan Darrimon as he walked the darkened sidewalk with his wife Veronica.
Hundreds of people have come home for the holiday, to a place where no homes stand.
But for four hours tonight, Coffey Park has the old feel of Christmas, with lights illuminating the darkened lots of homes now burned from existence.
"It's all about cleaning up the devastation they went through and giving them a little bit of hope. and give them a chance to start over again," said event co-sponsor Glen Gahlotti.
October 8th, the North Bay erupted in flames, fanned by gusty winds and fueled by parched brush. Two hundred fifty homes burned, with losses estimated at nearly $10 billion.
More than two months later, the rebuilding has begun, but many souls are still scarred from the loss.
"When this community burned down, there were a lot of distraught people. their spirit was torn. they were lost," said John Allen, another one of the event co-sponsors.
Gahlotti, Allen, and a half dozen other co-sponsors spent 50-thousand dollars to transform desolation into Saturday night destination.
"I work with a bunch of good contractors side-by-side.. and we decided to bring a little Christmas cheer and happiness to the community," said Gahlotti.
For one night, there is life, and light... snow slides and Santa rides.
"It's a sense of community. we're all getting together and you can feel the love in this community, in Sonoma county. it's really nice," said Santa Rose resident Lisa Hawkinson, as she watched her five year old daughter slide down the large mound of snow perched on a Coffey Park side street.
Even those who didn't loose last October are giving in any way they can to those who did.
"It's the right thing to do. we were all affected by the fires in one way or another. and I just want to give back," said Rohnert Park resident Barbara Ruch as she struggled to fight back tears.
Through pain there is healing, and hope that Coffey Strong isn't just a saying, it's a state of being, as real as...Christmas magic...
"It's redefined neighborhoods. and what a neighbor is," said Coffey Park resident Veronica Darrimon.
The Christmas block party was open from 6pm until 10pm. The rebuilding of Coffey Park is just beginning.