Hundreds were lined up at the Healdsburg Community Center the morning of Nov. 4 as the center transformed into the county’s local assistance center (LAC).
The services available at the LAC range from reentry kits to help with insurance and health services from the government as well as private insurers.
Jim and Jeanne Sternbergh were a few dozen people back in line and were there to get the long paperwork process started.
“We lost our house on Chalk Hill Road,” Jim Sternbergh said. “It’s funny, we have all these friends who, two years ago, went through all this, so we’re kind of prepared for it. We’ve seen it, all the different steps you have to do. It’s not easy, but they all did it so we can, too.”
Two big items to get started at the LAC were having their property reassessed, as it no longer has a house on it, and taking care of their vehicle titles, which they said may mean waiting in another long line at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
“Hopefully this will be more convenient,” Jim said.
The couple evacuated with plenty of time before the Kincade Fire struck, they said, and said it was an orderly experience.
Then the uncertainty came.
“We didn’t know for a couple days,” Jim said.
They received some photos of their next door neighbor’s house, which was still intact, and had some hope that theirs also made it. Then they received a photo of the ash where their house was.
“I looked at the ashes and looked where the dishwasher was, where the fireplace was and said, ‘Yeah, that’s it,” he said.
Jeanne showed photos of where their home stood, the chimney the only thing still standing.
“It’s awful,” Jeanne said.
Now, the immediate challenge is finding a place to stay as they rebuild. The couple knew that it would be a year or two stay but their love for the area has them committed to their new home.
“We’ve lived here since 2000. We actually bought it as a fixer-upper,” Jeanne said. “We spent 19 years fixing it up.”
Jeanne did say that her garden, aside from some fencing was unscathed.
She said that their neighbors were also impacted, losing homes, well access and more.
They hope to rebuild a home that will be more fire resistant, possibly made of concrete, as well as a home that will be more environmentally sustainable, with solar panels and other green options.
“That’s our challenge and opportunity in this awful time,” Jeanne said.
Meghan Dixon was also in line to see what resources were available after losing her home at Highway 128 and Chalk Hill Road.
She evacuated before the fire came and said she was taking it all day by day.
Dixon, who was with supporting family in line, said she has a place to stay for now and needs to get the paperwork started and wanted to see what other resources were available.
She said she first heard of the LAC on Nixle and later on social media.
Her sister, Amy Munselle, evacuated from Geyserville. Her home wasn’t damaged but it came close. Along with their mother, Kitty Dixon, evacuated first to Occidental then to Chico when west county was evacuated.
Bertha Casteneda said she heard from Corazon Healdsburg that the center would have resources available for those like her who were evacuated during the fire.
Casteneda evacuated to Sacramento during the fire from Healdsburg.
“It was horrible. I was nervous, scared. I didn’t know what was happening,” she said.
The drive north was just as crowded as the routes south, she said, especially on Interstate 80.
She wasn’t sure what would be available specifically but said she would explore opportunities and will apply for whatever she qualifies for. She said her home wasn’t damaged, but being away for that long took its toll.
The LAC is open through Nov. 6 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Healdsburg Community Center, 1557 Healdsburg Ave.