HORNBROOK, Calif.– The San Franciso man charged with starting the deadly Klamathon Fire in Sisikiyou County made an appearance in court Wednesday.
During the hearing, attorneys on both sides agreed this case is a complicated one, mired in factual and legal issues that could cause it to be very lengthy – something both sides would like to try and avoid. Still, the residents that were affected by the Klamathon Fire last year will be watching this case very closely.
“People lost their homes and like I said they can’t be rebuilt and they’re out,” said Michael Thompson, a Hornbrook resident. “They’re having to go someplace else and relocate like myself.”
For the hundreds of residents in Hornbrook, the deadly Klamathon Fire last July 5 decimated the community. One person died, 38,000 acres burned and 80 homes were destroyed including Michael Thompson’s.
“No insurance so it’s pretty much just a lot now,” he said. “Lost the house and the shop in the back, it was full of tools and all kind of stuff.”
Now, only an outline of the home Michael lived in for 45 years remains. Dotted across the valley are similar scenes.
“House up there, the neighbor’s house, the house on the corner, house down the street and down the street all the way down that street, all the houses burnt every one of them,” said Thompson pointing to the various houses around his own property that burned.
Investigators say John Skoda started the fire after conducting an illegal debris burn. In court Wednesday, Skoda is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and arson.
“I don’t dislike the guy but I think he should pay, everyone should pay for when they’re negligent,” said Thompson.
That seems to be somewhat of the consensus from fellow Hornbrook neighbors, according to Thompson, who all say Skoda deserves some sort of punishment.
But at the same time, Thompson is moving forward. While reminders of his painful losses are everywhere around him the people of Hornbrook are proud of their little town.
“We’re a strong community, we’re all sticking together and helping each other out,” Thompson said with a smile. “And hope continues.”
Skoda will be back in court on June 5 for another pretrial hearing. Regardless of whether attorneys can reach a resolution by then, the case will move forward at that time.
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.