Kincade Fire burns 107-year-old cattle ranch in Sonoma County

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- After surviving more than a century's worth of fire seasons, one Sonoma County family lost almost everything to the Kincade Fire.

"The smoke was blowing and we couldn't tell where the fire was," said Eric LaFranchi, who lives in Sonoma County's Knights Valley.

Eric says most of his family evacuated early Sunday morning as the wind picked up and the fire grew closer to their property.

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"There was so much dust you couldn't see and it was difficult to even stand up."

You can hear the wind - 80 to 100 MPH gusts - in cell phone video that Eric's daughter shot at 3:13 am Sunday. That was about an hour before the flames reached the valley on Highway 128.

That's when Eric and his son suddenly realized they needed to leave.

They barely escaped as they caravaned away from the flames.

RELATED: Sonoma County Kincade Fire: Evacuation centers, donations and other resources

"The only thing I could see was the fire and his two tail lights.... The flames as we drove a little farther, were on both sides of the road... the flames were brushing across the front of the car and we could see them on the windshield."

Eric says a downed tree blocked the road and they had to turn around and head north to safety. "When we returned two hours later, the whole ranch, all the structures, were gone."

The ranch has been in the family since 1912. The Kincade Fire torched 107 years of LaFranchi family history.

Barns, trucks, mobile homes, and three family houses, including the house Eric grew up in and then raised his own children in, were burned.

"Maybe another generation would have been able to share that same experience if we hadn't lost the house in the fire," said Eric, while walking through the ashes of the house that was built in 1948.

RELATED: Kincade Fire Map shows evacuation, burn zones in Sonoma County

Hot spots were still burning on the property Monday night. Eric's daughter was hosing down her yard, the only structure on the ranch to survive the fire.

"Probably what we're most thankful for is that everybody's okay and the cattle are okay," said Cheryl LaFranchi, Eric's sister, who runs their cattle ranch, Oak Ridge Angus.

Her house burned down along with their ability to take care of the cows, so the local farming community has been donating stacks of hay and equipment to keep the operation going amidst the smoldering ashes. Cheryl says friends in other parts of California will be housing some of their calves and heifers for the winter.

Cheryl says they will rebuild. "We're going to start tomorrow, it's not soon enough for me, and we're just going to start cleaning up."

Click here for the latest evacuation and shelter information.

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