HORNBROOK, Calif.– One year ago Friday, Siskiyou County faced a devastating wildfire that swept through the town of Hornbrook and forced I-5 to shut down. Before it was put out, thousands of acres burned, dozens of structures were destroyed and one man was killed.
While it was terrifying for residents, many are gathering together to celebrate their towns survival and people coming back to the place they call home.
“I was terrified. We were out for Fourth of July and I just watched it on the news coming closer and closer,” said Amy Evangelista, a volunteer with the Hornbrook Community Association, a group formed to support residents of Hornbrook.
Fight or flight. That was the decision many Hornbrook residents had to make quickly before flames destroyed the place they call home. While many neighborhoods were spared, dozens of structures were destroyed and several families lost everything.
“My neighbor, she won’t go,” said Elaine Mellon, a resident of 20 years in Hornbrook. “A few people didn’t want to leave their house. We tried to talk them out of it. They said no they’re going to stay.”
In a small town of little more than 300, residents say the fire brought tragedy but also a community. Out of the ashes, the town pulled together to help each other get through the best they could.
“People lost everything that was really sad,” said Mellon. “But then also see they moved in with other people like my neighbor, she’s sheltering my neighbors that lost everything.”
Finding a way to bring the town together, the Hornbrook Community Association created the Healing Hornbrook Community Project. One of their final events planned, a homecoming celebration.
“Part of a summer launch,” said Evangelista. “We cleaned up a park together this last weekend and then we had the Fourth of July parade which we tried to put some more energy in. So the homecoming is this celebration. Our final celebration that we did get to come home last year to our town still.”
While there are still things residents of Hornbrook are working on fixing, a newfound sense of community feels like a step in the right direction.
“I see it. I mean I got more involved after the fire. I met a lot more people I would never have met before,” said Evangelista. “That brought everyone together and I don’t think it was just me.”
The homecoming event is scheduled for Saturday, July 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It will be held at the intersection of Henley-Hornbrook and Hornbrook Road in the middle of the town.
NBC5 News Reporter Miles Furuichi graduated from Chapman University with degrees in English and Journalism. He received post graduate experience in Los Angeles in photojournalism and commercial photography. He also spent time in Dublin, Ireland working in print journalism and advertising.
Miles is a Rogue Valley native, raised in Ashland. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking and photography.