Camp Fire evacuees returning home finding unlivable conditions even if house was spared

ByKate Larsen via KGO logo
Wednesday, November 21, 2018
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Camp Fire Evacuees return home for the first time. But even homes that survived, are still unlivable.

CHICO, Calif. (KGO) -- Tens of thousands of Camp Fire evacuees have been let back into their neighborhoods this week. Some have gone home to better news than others as people find out what's left on their property.

Cari Phipps spent the day searching for signs of her life on Honey Run Road in Chico. She found her wedding ring, the diamonds now blackened by fire. But she really came back home to look for her two dogs, "Today, we came up and found 'em in the house. So, they didn't make it-- we're ready to grieve that though, we're ready to not be looking for them."

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Fortunately, all nine of Cari's chickens were waiting for her and their treats when she returned home.

"They can't survive predators, but they can survive a fire."

Cari is also a survivor. She's battling breast cancer for the second time right now. And despite losing her home that she moved into just a year ago, she sees only the possibilities ahead.

"This was a dream for us, dream property, dream location, a dream community. We're very tight with the community up here, it's been amazing. There was no question in our mind that we would rebuild here."

Down the road from Cari, the Salinas Family was left with a bit more. Their house is still standing, surrounded on all sides by the charred remains of their neighbor's homes.

"I feel like the very least I can do is support them. I've already got a list of what I can do to help them," said Colleen Salinas.

But even though Colleen's home is standing, she doesn't know when they'll be able to actually live at home again.

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"There's a lot of smoke damage inside. We don't have electricity or water, so it's not livable at this point."

Colleen says firefighters were protecting her property when the Camp Fire came through the canyon. Firefighters say clearance is critical when they decide what homes are most savable.

Daniel Ramey, a public information officer with Cal Fire Team 4, says the Salinas family did a lot to keep their property safe from the fire.

"They started cutting a lot of things away from the house, wood piles, they threw them out. They also got their sprinklers out while they still had power, watered down everything."

See more stories, photos and videos on the Camp Fire in Butte County.