When the Jeberg family evacuated their Calistoga Road home on Oct. 8, fleeing the Tubbs fire, they assumed it would be the last time they’d ever see it.
A couple days later, they learned their home had been spared.
With his wife and children safe at a friend’s home in the East Bay, Henrik Jeberg returned to see if there was anything he could do to help.
He arrived on Oct. 10, just in time to see the crews that saved their home packing up.
“It was just so hard (for him) to find words,” Michala Jeberg said on behalf of her husband, who was out of the country during the interview. “All he could come up with was, ‘Thank you,’ basically, and the fire crews were all just saying, ‘Well, we’re just doing our jobs.’ They didn’t seem to think much about it.”
Still down south, Jeberg was unable to express her own gratitude.
Instead, she painted her “Thank you” on a 6-foot piece of plywood, and put it outside her home in the hope fire crews would see it.
“I saw these signs popping up here, there and everywhere,” she said. “I thought, ‘All these people must be feeling the same way as I do. … (Since) a lot of the firefighters were not local, they were coming from out of town or out of state or even out of country, I thought that they were never going to see all these beautiful, heartfelt signs. And I thought that was a shame.”
She began taking photographs of every sign she came across and documenting them on an Instagram page, @sonomathankful.
“After I had maybe 10 or so, I thought, ‘This is more than just me collecting stamps, so to say, … I should share this with other people,’” she said.
With the help of local designer Monica Kamsvaag and Glen Rankin, a printer, the photo collection morphed into a poster that is now being mailed or dropped off to 350 fire stations around the world.
“Hopefully they will put them up in their garage, or their break room,” Jeberg said. “So they know that people are thankful for what they’re doing every day.”
When the Jebergs bought their house in December 2014, it marked the end of the Copenhagen couple’s two-year journey to find their own version of heaven. Nestled on a hillside off Calistoga Road, the single-story, four-bedroom home abuts 46 acres of rolling Sonoma County countryside.
“We found this to be our perfect little spot,” said Jeberg, 41. “What’s not to like here? Beautiful community, beautiful neighbors, beautiful nature, and what we really liked when we found it is the people’s attitude. They’re so very open-minded, very welcoming, very helpful. Basically, you can be whoever you want to be. That’s what we like. We just loved the place.”
When friends in Denmark asked whether the fires would prompt their return, the Jebergs explained it was just the opposite, actually.
“The neighborhood has really come together here in the valley — Alpine Valley — and that’s also very inspiring,” Jeberg said.
“I feel happy to know that other people are out there looking out for each other and doing whatever we can.”