Lake Shastina woman starting over after devastating Mill Fire

SISKIYOU CO, Calif. —It’s been nearly 3 weeks since the Mill Fire erupted in and around the communities of Weed and Lake Shastina in northern California. Tonight we’re hearing from a resident who lost everything. Now she and dozens of other local residents in the community are working to rebuild.

September 2nd, a day that changed Lake Shastina resident, Heather Vargo’s life. Vargo has lived in the area for the last two years. She was at work when she received the emergency alert about the fire.

“I did about 95 miles an hour on the backroad to get to my child who is a teenager without a car and couldn’t get out of Lake Shastina so I evacuated two homes got all my animals out,” said Vargo.

That night she found out she had lost everything in the fire, including something that can’t be replaced.

“Shock because that was my mom’s house and I was a renter and I lost my mom in December so her ashes are in that house,” said Vargo.

Vargo’s been staying in a Yreka hotel as she tries to pick up the pieces. Monday she went to the Weed Community Center to see what resources are available to help her rebuild.

“Just been going to work every day, it’s the best distraction is working so I’ve been going to work every day and I figure I’ll slowly rebuild my life as it comes along,” said Vargo.

Siskiyou County Emergency Management says it is done with phase 1 of hazardous debris removal in the fire’s footprint. So far Cal OES has cleaned 118 parcels from the Mill Fire.  This week it will focus on hazardous debris runoff into the surrounding watershed.

“I feel good about it one thing that I think people need to realize is this is really fast this is not normally done this fast, there are some fires in central California that haven’t even gotten phase one yet, so to have phase one complete is a really big deal,” said Bryan Schenone, Siskiyou County Director of Emergency Services.

For Vargo and the many others who suffered a loss in the fire, it’s a waiting game on the next steps. Vargo says she found a small two-bedroom rental in Yreka for the next phase of her life. She hopes to move in the next month.

NBC5 News Reporter Jenna King is a Burbank native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at the U of O, she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through interning with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors, or binging on the latest Netflix release.
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