Newlyweds lose home, wedding gifts in NorCal fires after honeymoon

SANTA ROSA, Calif. -- A Santa Rosa couple who just came back from their honeymoon are among the hundreds of people who lost homes in the North Bay fires.

All their wedding presents and belongings are gone.

It was the picture perfect wedding set in wine country and everything Catie Velarde had dreamed of. But instead of basking in newlywed bliss, she and her new husband are heartbroken.

"When we came home from our honeymoon I was literally sitting there on the couch and thinking of how happy I was to be home," said Velarde through tears.

They just returned from a two-week honeymoon in Mexico on Sunday. They went to sleep that night, but were woken up by their dog Molly barking. She alerted them to smoke filling their house.

"I realized something was bad so I woke her up and said there's a house on fire," said Oscar Velarde, Catie's husband.

Catie couldn't believe what she saw. "When they say raining fire, that's what it felt like and that's what it looked like the winds were so gusty just red ember flying everywhere," said Valerde.

They quickly started grabbing an extra change of clothes, a camera, and wedding jewelry. When they drove away they knew it may be the last time they saw their home standing.

"Honestly if Molly hadn't woken us up I don't know what would have happened," said Velarde.

Later that day, once the fire swept through, a friend sent them video of their home, now in ruins. All their wedding gifts were gone. The only things that are still recognizable are the garage door and the mailbox.

"I just don't know where to begin. How do you come back from that?" said Velarde.

Oscar is trying to stay strong for his bride.

"I kept reminding her, we're out, we're alive. This is really horrible but we have our three dogs with us and some of us weren't lucky to get their animals out," said Oscar.

The couple is staying with family in Rohnert Park for the short term. Overwhelmed like so many others, they face an uncertain future. They're grateful to have each other to hold on to. Velarde's mother started a GoFundMe account to help her daughter and new husband rebuild their lives.
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