‘A sobering feeling’: River Fire nears full containment as residents begin to pick up the pieces
Ten days after it began, the River Fire is nearing 100% containment.
The blaze that started Aug. 4 and scorched 2,619 acres of land, destroyed more than 100 structures and caused four injuries in Placer and Nevada counties was 95% contained Friday afternoon, according to Cal Fire.
All evacuation orders have been lifted, and now residents who lost their homes begin the arduous process of picking up the pieces.
“The most difficult part is the not knowing what to do next, because you’ve lost control,” said Mark Kendall, 65, who lost his home in the fire.
Kendall and his wife, Laura, also lost their workshop, tool shed and several classic cars in the fire. Their property runs up against that of Jerry and Margie Dolezal. Their home was lost to the fire as well. The Dolezal’s property was well known for hosting events such as weddings, Colfax High School reunions, an annual Pond Party Pot Luck and was even featured on Colfax’s Garden Tour.
“For 40 years, we’ve been here,” Kendall said. “It’s always been there. Everybody knows where it is and now it’s not there.”
‘I DON’T KNOW HOW WE’RE GOING TO RECOVER’
Kendall’s neighbor, Jesse Hernandez, whose home was also destroyed by the fire, agreed that the uncertainty of what lies ahead is difficult to contend with.
“I don’t know how we’re going to recover,” said Hernandez, 63. “I know we will. Everybody does. I just don’t know how.”
Both Kendall and Hernandez said their properties were fire safe, and when they got the evacuation order they both thought they would return in a few days with their homes still intact.
“It was a sobering feeling,” Hernandez said of seeing his home leveled by the fire. “We lost everything we own. My shop had all my tools. I got 46 years of being a mechanic, and technician and now all that’s gone. Everything in the house is gone. There’s things that can never be replaced.”
In addition to losing his home and shop, the fire also claimed several of Hernandez’s cars.
As of Friday a total of 102 residential structures had been destroyed, 54 in Nevada County and 48 in Placer County. Another 12 residential structures were damaged (nine in Nevada County, three in Placer County), and one Nevada County commercial building was destroyed. Thirty-nine outbuildings were also destroyed by the blaze.
“I’ve never gone through anything like this,” said Hernandez. “I’ve never lost a house and you really don’t know how to follow through. This is a first for me, and there’s no one around to grab you by the hand to help you figure it out.”
There is help for those coping with the destruction left behind, and it’s being offered through several different venues.
There is a “one-stop shop” for recovery and rebuilding information being held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at Colfax Elementary School on Ben Taylor Road in Colfax. The assistance center is for residents of both Placer and Nevada counties, and offerings include essential document replacement, property tax adjustments, housing and social services, grief counseling and initial building services consultations, among others.
Kendall said he has already filed a claim with his insurance company and things are moving along swiftly on that front. He added the outpouring of support from near and far has been overwhelming. A GoFundMe account was set up for the Kendalls and Dolezals. It was started by a coworker of Kendall’s son.
As of Friday, the GoFundMe account for the Dolezals and Kendalls had raised more than $17,000 coming from more than 100 donors.
“That’s something you don’t expect. Half those people, I don’t even know,” said Kendall, who is currently staying with friends. “My gosh, I’m so humbled by the support from donors up and down the state.”
Kendall also expressed gratitude for the firefighters, as well as county officials who have helped in recent days.
Hernandez, who is currently staying with his daughter in Elk Grove, said he’s had some trouble dealing with his insurance company, making the situation even more difficult.
“We all pay insurance,” he said. “Car insurance, house insurance, you got to have insurance on everything. But, when there’s a claim, they don’t want to pay it. And, when you’re broken, and we’re broken, we’re all emotionally distraught and can’t think our way out of paper bag, and these people are telling us ‘no.’ Instead of helping, they are going the other way on this.”
For those interested in donating funds to River Fire victims, contributions can be made at the Nevada County Relief Fund website.
A Colfax and Nevada County River Fire Lost Pets & Livestock Facebook page has also been set up to help reunite pets and livestock that may have gone missing in the wake of the blaze.
To contact staff writer Walter Ford, email email@example.com
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Source: Cal Fire