Fire evacuees return to homes |

Fire evacuees return to homes

As most of the Stevens Fire’s 150 evacuees returned to their Colfax-area homes Tuesday evening, at least one couple saw everything they owned crushed.

Galen Goding, 40, was watching the 5 o’clock news at a friend’s home Monday when he saw a television news reporter in front of ruins of the home Goding had shared with his girlfriend of 20 years on Saw Mill Road.

“Everything that they own is gone,” said Goding’s mother, Julie Goding. She said her son was too shaken to talk about his loss Tuesday.

The Stevens Fire in the American River Canyon reached 950 acres Tuesday and was 80 percent contained by the end of the day. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection expected to have the fire fully contained this afternoon.

One residence and three outbuildings were destroyed, according to the CDF. While several residents stayed behind to protect their homes from the fire, no one was reported injured.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency is providing financing to help fight the fire, which reportedly was started by an electrical short in an unoccupied trailer Sunday afternoon.

On Goding’s property, everything was scorched. The ground, trees, glass, unrecognizable metal parts. A garden hose was reduced to dust. What was once metal was now a shining, frozen stream, trickling down the hillside.

All that remained intact was a three-step metal staircase that used to lead into the home.

The leaves on all surrounding trees were pointed away from where the fire attacked them.

“The heat freezes them in that position,” said Capt. Rick Espino, with the San Benito/Monterey unit of CDF.

Espino said the home was lost, most likely, for two reasons – because it was in the direct path of the fire and because there was no defensible space around the structures.

Julie Goding said her son was not worried about the fire when he evacuated and thought he would be back within hours.

“They didn’t think it would come through there,” she said. When he and his girlfriend left, they left the television and air conditioning on. They took one of their four cats with them, but locked the other three inside, she said.

A home up the hill from Goding’s survived. It had several hundred feet of defensible space around it, and on all of the trees nearby, no branches were lower than 20 feet off the ground.

“When they take the time to give us defensible space, we defend it,” Espino said.

Another Saw Mill Road home that survived – but barely – was Joe Zorichak’s. Zorichak did not heed the evacuation call because he wanted to stay and help save his property.

Monday evening, 30-foot-high flames destroyed a shed several feet from his home. All of his college-age daughter’s belongings, such as childhood toys, furniture and clothes, were lost.

The wall of flames reached the home, but a bulldozer and a retardant drop pushed it off.

“It’s a miracle it is still standing,” Zorichak said.

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