Seniors gather to figure out how to rebuild after Valley Fire

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After many senior residents lost a lifetime of memories and things in the Valley Fire, some feel liberated and others are bonding. (KGO-TV)

The deadly Valley Fire in the North Bay is finally 85 percent contained after it began two weeks ago. Four people died, four firefighters were injured and 76,000 acres were burned along with 1,230 homes.

DONATIONS: How to help victims of the Valley Fire where you live

The evacuation center at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga is now closed. Still, evacuees are struggling to figure out what's next for them.

In Middletown, as residents try to get their lives back together there is still plenty of help for those who lost their home. There are more than 25 agencies to help Lake County residents. The local, state and federal agencies have created a one-stop shop for people, to try to make things a little easier on them.

And in the midst of all of it, we found a love story. Ken Weaver and his girlfriend, Pat Berg, were sitting on a bench when we met them.

Berg said, "Well we were engaged 63 years ago."

Weaver used to be a resident of Anderson Springs. We found his home had been burnt down in the fire and he has yet to go there to see it for himself.

When the fire hit, this couple was on the road home, just engaged, again.

Berg said, "And he just decided that he was going to come to Montana and see if he could find me. And he did."

Weaver and Berg have come home to a community in full-rebuild mode. The beautiful neighborhoods have turned to burnscape, but there are plenty of neighbors with lots in common.

"It is liberating in a way because I had 30 years of stuff that did not love me. And I am free of that," said Richard Schaut who lost his home in the Valley Fire.

Schaut teaches English and philosophy at the local high school. Thursday, he joined Weaver and Berg, and hundreds of other residents who came to the Middletown Senior Service Center for help from local, state and federal agencies. You'll never realize the complications of a fire until you lose your home, and everything else, to one.

"I'm alright. The stuff's gone," Schaut said.

There are so many ironies, like the man who lost his house, while reclaiming a love of his life.

We asked Weaver what would he do if he didn't have Berg, and he replied, "I would be a basket case."

Thursday night Anderson Springs would soon reopen so Weaver and Berg will finally get a look at the home they lost.

We asked him if rebuilding a house is any kind of project for an 82-year-old and he answered, "It is, now."

There is a new Lake County hotline for updated information on the fire: 1-888-565-2787 You can also call the number to find support if you need help assessing your damage.

Click here to find out if you qualify for assistance

If you lost your home in the Valley Fire, FEMA wants you to call them.
  • Online or from any web-enabled mobile device:

  • Smartphone:

  • Phone: 1-800-621-3362 or TTY: 1-800-462-7585

  • Click here for full coverage on the Valley Fire.
    PHOTOS: ABC7 News reporters at the Valley Fire
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    Related Topics:
    Valley Firebrush firewildfireevacuationnapa countysonoma countyfire deathFEMAdisasternorthern californiaseniorsengagementdestroyed homesMiddletownCobbKelseyvilleCalistogaCaliforniaSanta Rosa
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