National News

Returning to Redding After the Carr Fire

Posted August 6, 2018 10:51 a.m. EDT

Residents of the west Redding neighborhoods most devastated by the Carr Fire began returning to their damaged homes this weekend, marking the first steps of a long recovery ahead for the town and others throughout Shasta County affected by the blaze. Some made the familiar drives to their houses only to find empty lots piled with ash and debris.

Justin Sanchez, who lived in the Lake Keswick Estates neighborhood, described a chaotic scene the night he and his family pushed through bottlenecked traffic to escape a fire tornado that ripped through the area. Like many others, he said he did not initially believe the fire would jump the Sacramento River to reach his neighborhood. The situation escalated quickly, he said.

“I just knew this thing was going to take our whole neighborhood,” he said. “I’ve never been so scared in my life.”

All he was able to grab on his way out were some photos from the walls. Today, that is all his family has left; when he returned one week later, he found everything burned down.

In a follow-up interview, Sanchez said his family was still mapping out what comes next; his first steps included getting an identification card and securing a temporary place to live for himself and his two boys. He is looking for more permanent housing. In the meantime, he has also signed up as a volunteer to help families clean the debris from their burned-down homes.

“I lost it all, and if I can help clean up, then that will make me feel better,” he said.

The fire continues to burn, though it has turned westward away from Redding. As of Sunday, it has burned 160,000 acres and is 43 percent contained.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday toured the Lake Redding Estates neighborhood and urged Californians to come together as “one state and one country” to respond to these disasters.

“This is part of a trend, a new normal, and we’ve got to deal with it,” Brown said. “These kind of horrible situations bring people together regardless of the lesser kind of ideologies and partisan considerations. It’s tragic that tragedy brings us closer together, but out of that we learn to depend on each other and work together,” he said.

President Donald Trump on Saturday approved a disaster declaration for California, which will make federal assistance available for Shasta County residents affected by the Carr Fire. The White House, in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said that the assistance would take the form of grants and low-cost loans and that individuals can apply for them online; they did not specify a cap on the disaster assistance package.

Mayor Kristen Schreder of Redding said that city and county governments were going to be working with the state on a local assistance center where residents affected by the fire can go for information and services. “We just never thought this was going to happen,” she said. “But I’ve lost track of the number of people, friends who I know who have lost their homes. It’s heartbreaking.”