California Wine Country wildfires reduce dreams to embers as flames grow
By JONATHAN J. COOPER and ELLEN KNICKMEYER
SANTA ROSA — Jose Garnica worked for more than two decades to build up his dream home that was reduced to ashes in a matter of minutes by the deadly firestorm striking California’s wine country.
Garnica, who moved to the U.S. from Mexico over 20 years ago, had finally decided he could afford to upgrade parts of his Santa Rosa house after building a stable career with the local garbage company and saving nearly everything he and his wife earned.
Over the past two years, he replaced the siding and installed a new air conditioner, stainless steel appliances and new flooring. Less than a week ago, the 44-year-old got an estimate to replace the fence, one of the last items on his list.
But at 3:30 a.m. Monday, he watched his house become one of the more than 2,000 homes and businesses destroyed by the series of blazes across the region that had killed at least 17 people.
Jose Garnica, left, kisses his daughter Leslie Garnica in front of their home that was destroyed in the Coffey Park area of Santa Rosa, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. An onslaught of wildfires across a wide swath of Northern California broke out almost simultaneously then grew exponentially, swallowing up properties from wineries to trailer parks and tearing through both tiny rural towns and urban subdivisions. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)