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New Larkfield nonprofit formed to help community recover one year after Tubbs fire

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Read all of the PD's fire anniversary coverage here

Larkfield fire survivors have launched a new nonprofit to help them recover and improve their community one year after the Tubbs fire destroyed hundreds of homes in the unincorporated area just north of Santa Rosa.

Called the Larkfield Resilience Fund, the organization will be overseen by a seven-member board of directors composed entirely of people who lost homes in the community last year. Directors announced the fund’s creation on the disaster’s inaugural anniversary Monday.

The fund will seek grant money and donations from community members to help restore vegetation and improve the community’s emergency preparedness, among other projects.

Christine Ratliff, whose home in the Larkfield Estates subdivision was destroyed in the fire, said she and her husband Shawn helped the fund get up and running with an initial contribution of about $2,000. They are still working to officially secure nonprofit status, Ratliff said, but she expects to know soon.

Ratliff said she was motivated to form the group mainly because she wants to help replant trees that once filled the area with lush greenery. A top priority of the fund initially is planting as many as 200 trees in the front yards of homes being rebuilt.

“One of the main things about the neighborhood that we loved so much when we bought our homes was the mature oak trees and the established redwoods,” Ratliff said. “The loss of that is almost as sad as losing your home. The whole dynamic of the neighborhood is going to change without those trees.”

Additional projects the fund wants to support include an emergency alert siren, a camera to monitor for potential wildfires and a program to help residents be better prepared for emergencies.

“The main goal of this … is really to think beyond the rebuild, and to provide another tool to make our neighborhoods resilient,” said Brad Sherwood, another Larkfield Estates fire survivor who is on the board of the fund. “The neighborhood is more organized than it ever was before.”

Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore, who represents Larkfield, lauded the fund’s creation and agreed it was another sign of improved organization in the community.

“Prior to the fires, Larkfield was a very sleepy place,” Gore said. “They have awoken. ... And for me, that’s one of the lines of hope that have come of this disaster.”

Monday evening, community members had a lively event to commemorate the firestorm anniversary, complete with live music and food in Larkfield Estates, located at Mark West Springs Road and Old Redwood Highway. Sherwood, a spokesman for the county Water Agency, said residents wanted to “bring some good vibes into our neighborhood on an otherwise somber night.”

For the Ratliffs, Monday was doubly significant: It was also their 13th wedding anniversary.

“We’ve made it through a year, and I actually feel a sense of triumph,” Christine Ratliff said. “We’re hopeful and optimistic. If we can make it through this, we can make it through pretty much anything.”

You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or jd.morris@pressdemocrat.com.

Read all of the PD's fire anniversary coverage here

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