State removes hazardous materials, homeowners look to rebuild

HORNBROOK, Calif.– The people of Hornbrook are beginning to take the first steps toward rebuilding, months after the Klamathon Fire destroyed multiple homes and killed one man.

As the state wraps up it’s testing of hazardous materials on the sites of burned houses, CalRecycle, the department overseeing the cleanup operations, says it’s moving into it’s Phase 2 of wildfire cleanup processes – debris removal.

One of the first houses to take part belongs to Robert Puckett, a Hornbrook resident, whose family lost everything in the fire.

“You lose everything, you know, you don’t think it’ll ever happen to you and then all of a sudden, one day here it is,” he said.

Puckett watches from the nearby cemetery as contract crews dig up contaminated dirt and debris and unload it onto trucks. From his view, he can vividly remember the exact spot where he kept his belongings. At one moment, he stops and points to an empty spot where he kept chickens that unfortunately were unable to escape the fire.

“You see everything burnt, you just don’t want to be around it but you know it’s our homes,” said Puckett. “We’ve lived here. We actually know what other people went through now.”

But luckily, Puckett says his home was insured. That wasn’t the case for others though.

Barbara Taylor, the caretaker of the Henley and Hornbrook Cemetery, lived with her son at his house just off the main street. Their home was one of the dozens that didn’t make it.

“We live at 224 main street. We did,” she said, remembering all that had happened. “And our house completely burnt to the ground. We have no insurance.”

All of their belongings and everything they owned – up in flames. Her son, who was big on cars and four wheelers, lost all of it with no chance of receiving anything back.

Taylor says it’s been a struggle financially but the family has been able to find a new place in Hornbrook. They just don’t know how long they have.

“We’re waiting for to get a hold of the landlord to see if we can get an extended lease on the place,” she said. “Right now it only lasts till October.”

Still, through the emotional and financial stresses, Taylor still manages to start everyday with a smile. Her reason, “Because we love Hornbrook.”

A simple statement but one that carries so much weight for many that wish to return and rebuild their lives here.

As Puckett describes it, “Shoot… that was my whole life out there.”

For Taylor, her son is upset about losing all of his automobiles but she tells him that hopefully, they can soon get all brand new equipment.

Both Taylor and Puckett have been recipients of the Sheriff Lopey Foundation, which has helped to provide financial support by those affected by the Klamathon Fire. If you’d like to donate to support the families, you can do so at the website here.


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