Many people in Klamath River lost their homes and belongings in the fire, but not their spirits.
As the deadly McKinney Fire in Northern California spread to nearly 59,000 acres, some residents are finding that the fire has taken everything from them, including their homes and personal belongings.
Nicole Kurkowski, age 32, and her children Kyra, 10, and Braydàn, 13, lived in their trailer in Klamath River for eight years. Last week, as the fire got closer to their home, they grabbed what they could and left.
Kurkowski said, “I could hear the crackling and the trees falling, and I could hear the fire.” “Smoke and ash were getting in my eyes.”
As the family drove away, they realised it was likely the last time they would ever go back to that house.
“Devastating,” Kurkowski said, her voice quavering. “There’s nothing else I can say about it except that it’s terrible. I almost lost everything I had.”
The fire, which had killed four people by Thursday, was only 10% contained, but crews were still making progress, fire officials said.
Kurkowski and her kids are staying in the nearby town of Yreka, which is in the county of Siskiyou.
In Yreka, some people were allowed to go back home while firefighters kept fighting the fire, officials said at a community meeting on Wednesday night.
Authorities are still warning that the fire could get worse if the temperature goes up and the humidity goes down.
Brenda and Michael Nowdesha lost a lot of their Klamath River ranch, including barns and animals, but they have decided to look forward.
Brenda Nowdesha, who is 72 years old, said, “It’s just the family home, and we want to try to keep it going.”
Her family has owned the ranch for many years. In 1954, her family moved there, and she grew up on the farm. This is the first time a fire has ever hurt the ranch.
Michael Nowdesha, who is 73 years old, said, “There’s a lot of history there.”
This week, when he went back to the site, his house was in ruins.
Still, the family said they are optimistic about the future and want to keep the family’s history alive.
Brenda Nowdesha said, “As soon as they let us go back down, we plan to clean up and get ready to rebuild.”
For some people, like Dalton Shute, the fire reminds them of bad times.
Shute, who is 28, left his apartment on July 29 with his roommates and their two children, who are 11 and 18 months old. Just as the smoke started to rise, they left the house.
On Saturday, a neighbour texted Shute to tell him that his house had burned down.
He said, “There was a lot of adrenaline and fear.”
Shute’s mother died in a house fire when he was 6 years old. Even though he wasn’t in the house when it happened, he said he’ll never forget the moment he found out.
“Really, it’s the same feeling of emptiness I had as a child,” Shute said. “I can’t believe it.”