SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — Residents are returning Friday morning to the neighborhoods in the city that were most damaged by the Tubbs Fire.
Orchard Park and the Journey’s End mobile home parks and Coffey Park in northwest Santa Rosa were scheduled for controlled re-entry between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Santa Rosa police said there already was extremely heavy traffic in the Coffey Park neighborhood around 7 a.m. Extended traffic delays were expected in the Hopper Avenue, Airway Drive, Banyan Place, Piner Road and Mendocino Avenue and Bicentennial Way areas.
The Orchard Park and Journey’s End mobile home parks will be released back to the property owners on Saturday, but Coffey Park will remain a controlled entry area.
Even though it was the same neighborhood where many had lived for years, a lot of folks got lost due to the lack of landmarks and couldn’t tell where they were.
Street names had to be written on the ground.
For Coffey Park residents John and Jodi Wimmer, it’s the small things keeping them going. They shared a chuckle after finding an enamel pot that survived the flames that tore through their neighborhood.
“We just jumped in the car,” recalled Coffey Park John Wimmer. “Had robes and slippers, didn’t have time to grab anything.”
The Wimmers were hoping to find a grandmother’s ring. “You know, a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while,” said John Wimmer. “So the chances are one in a thousand we will be able to find it.”
An upbeat John Wimmer became emotional when discussing the decades worth of photographs lost, but kept his perspective as he and his wife sifted through the ashes. “These are just material things,” he said. “It’s the heart what you have, and this neighborhood has a big heart.”
Ken Herland and his wife returned to see their neighbors for the first time since the fire, taking a moment for a long, quiet embrace.
There was nothing left of their home, but they were holding out in the hope of finding things their parents passed down to them brought them back.
“Lost home. Coming back here, seeing it all…kind of numbing right now,” said Herland.
Their neighbors the Millers had some luck.
“My grandmother’s ring!” said Linda Miller. “A little charred. We’ll clean it.”
Some used tools, but most people just put on gloves and dug right in.
Miller showed KPIX 5 cameras more items she unearthed.
“The wedding cake topper for our wedding. It’s also the same topper for my parents wedding when they married,” said Miller.
Across the street, another neighbor found antique guns his father in law gave him.
He plans to repair them.
Police said the controlled access for residents only will allow time to access the fire damage and grieve. On Sunday, Coffey Park will be open for public access, police said.
Residents received entry passes at the entrances of the two mobile home parks. Entry to the Coffey Park area will be at the Kohl’s store parking lot from Airway Drive.
Residents must provide a form of identification. Acceptable identification includes a driver’s license, state ID card, passport, utility bill and valid photo ID of consular ID. Student IDs will not be accepted as a valid photo ID.
A re-entry kit with safety supplies and instructions for protection from hazardous waste and chemicals will be provided with the re-entry passes.
Mental health providers, members of faith communities and law enforcement chaplains will be available in the neighborhoods.
Santa Rosa officials hope to have more information in a day or two on the re-entry for residents of the Fountaingrove neighborhood east of the Coffey Park.
TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.