Rebuilding a town lost to flames

HORNBROOK, Calif. — Few know what it feels like to lose everything, whether it’s your home, possessions, memories.

But for those living in Paradise, California, it’s now their reality.

A local town is still going through that same process…four months after the 38,000 acre Klamathon Fire tore through Hornbrook.

Months later, residents in the town are finally rebuilding, although they know things will never go back to they way they were.

“Your heart goes out for em… cause you know what they’re going through right now, and we already did,” said Phyllis Bear, Hornbrook resident.

Phyllis and her husband, Leonard Bear, are re-living some of their worst memories. After hearing about wildfires tearing across California and entire towns like Paradise going in flames.

“It was traveling so fast and the flames were so high…,” she said.

It’s been four months since the Klamathon Fire ripped through Hornbrook. One person died. Flames destroyed 82 structures, dozens of which were homes.

“You almost have a guilt feeling…that’s yours didn’t go,” Bear said.

The Bear’s home of 53 years is still standing.

“And there’s no comforting someone that has lost everything.” she said.

But out of the ashes, many are beginning again.

“I’m going to build back a house here,” said Steve Crittenden, Hornbrook resident.

Rebuilding what was lost and starting anew.

“You never think it’s going to happen to you,” Crittenden said. “You’re not prepared insurance-wise, you’re not prepared mentally.”

Crittenden says he’s one of the lucky ones; he has insurance. And when times get tough, he says, his faith is what’s holding him together.

“People realize that there’s more to life than just material stuff,” he said.

Today, empty lots and the smell of burnt wood are still here. A reminder of how quickly flames consumed parts of Hornbrook.

“When you see it rage…there’s no way they can put firefighters in front of it,” Crittenden said. “It’s just going to run.”

“When the time comes and you feel the heat and can’t breathe because of the smoke…there’s a whole different ball game,” said Bear.

If you would like to help victims of the Camp Fire, here are some of the places you can donate:

  • The Salvation Army
  • United Way of Jackson County
  • United Way of Northern California
  • TriCounties Bank 2018 Camp Fire Fund (GoFundMe)
  • North Valley Community Foundation
  • East Avenue Community Church of the Nazarene (GoFundMe)
  • Northern Valley Catholic Social Services

GoFundMe has created a full list of verified campaigns raising funds to help those impacted by the fires across California. You can find that list at GoFundMe.com/cause/californiafires.

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