SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) – A couple who on Sunday left behind a house filled with over 30 years of memories when they fled the raging fires in Santa Rosa on Tuesday found a treasured heirloom in the rubble that was once their home.
Bob and Tammy Christiansen lived at their home on Hopper Avenue in the devastated Coffey Park neighborhood for more than three decades, raising their three children in the house.
The couple let KPIX 5 follow along as they surveyed the ruins of their former home.
“There’s a lot of memories in this house. This is hard,” said Bob, who works as an electrician.
The fire that exploded into the area of Santa Rosa Sunday night was a shock. Bob and Tammy only had about 20 minutes to gather their things before fleeing.
The couple drove away in separate cars and got stuck in the gridlock of other residents rushing to leave the area as embers flew and houses burned all around them.
Less than 48 hours later, the Christiansens were back, digging through the ashes and charred remains of their house to salvage whatever they can find.
One thing builds on another. You know, hope,” said Bob. “She’s hoping she can find something else and try to dig something out of all this rubble.”
“It was important to come back, because there are a lot of sentimental items that I was hoping to find before somebody else found them,” Tammy Christiansen explained.
One of the most important items that she actually found was her wedding ring. She had taken it off before going to bed Sunday night. She heard another woman in the area was able to find her lost wedding ring.
“She found her wedding ring, and I thought, ‘Well, I’ve got to try,” Tammy said. “So we got in and I found it.”
She luckily had a pretty good idea where to start looking.
“I started in the front door and immediately went to where my jewelry box was. And I just started sifting and there it was,” said Tammy. “And it’s still in pretty good shape after all these years, and a fire!”
But to say this was a happy ending doesn’t tell the couple’s whole story.
Just a week before the fire, the Christiansens’ daughter was at a weekend bachelorette party in Las Vegas. The party had gone to the country music festival that was targeted by gunman Stephen Paddock in the October 1 rampage.
“It was a rough week, because the weekend before, she woke me up around 10 o’clock to let me know that there was an active shooter in Las Vegas and my daughter was at that concert,” remembered Bob. “So we were up all night trying to find her location and make contact with her while she was barricaded in a building in Las Vegas because of the shooter.”
But their daughter survived the massacre. Despite all the trauma between the shooting and the fire, Bob Christiansen said he and his wife are grateful for their family’s safety.
When asked if they planned to rebuild, Bob said that he had already contacted his insurance company and was looking into contractors so he could start reconstruction on their plot of land in Coffey Park as soon as possible.