Her parents’ home burned down, too. And when her dad’s boss offered them the one-bedroom for free, Espinoza, her fiance, her mom and dad, her two younger brothers, her sister and a family friend all moved in.
Overall they’re just glad to have someplace to stay, Espinoza said. But at times the stress can wear on the gratitude.
“We all get up at different times because we work at different hours, and it’s just a struggle not to wake up everybody,” she said. “How we’re going to manage with food, how we’re all going to get dressed, I mean, there’s only one bathroom down there. It’s a big, big struggle right now.”
At one point, some plumbers in the fire zones were offering to unclog toilets for free. It hasn’t come to that yet for Espinoza’s family.
“It’s very, very difficult,” she said, with a little laugh.
But one thing was easy. Deciding who in the family would get to sleep in the bedroom.
“They ended up just giving it to us, just because of the fact that I am pregnant,” she said, adding that she’s seven months along. “So they wanted me to be comfortable.”
In urban Sonoma County, the sheer number of homes destroyed in the fire is staggering: 4,723. In rural Redwood Valley, it’s 314. But the percentage of people who have been displaced here worries locals.
“That means a third of our little hamlet’s population here is suddenly homeless,” said Katrina Frey, co-founder of the family winery, Frey Vineyards, in Redwood Valley.
She is concerned that if people can’t find more stable places to stay, they’ll move away. And that could really change the character of this small town. Families could be split.
“My son and his wife and their 5-year old son had been sitting in the basement of his brother-in-law’s house in Ukiah, and they’re desperately looking for a little place of their own that they can rent for the winter,” she said.
But the rental market is incredibly tight, with so many people looking and some of the housing stock burned in the fire.
FEMA has delivered a handful of RVs to Sonoma County, but none have arrived in Redwood Valley. Frey and her husband had hoped to live in one while they rebuild.
“We understand there are no FEMA trailers for three to four months,” she said.
In the long term, rebuilding isn’t an option for people like Crystal Espinoza. She was renting her home.
“My landlord lost her home as well, and she doesn’t want to rebuild,” she said.
Her dad does, though. And they’re hoping he can build an extra house on his property for them. But that could take two years. And her baby is coming in two months.
“Right now everything’s up in the air,” she said.
But she’s going to do all she can to stay in Redwood Valley.