Healing's backyard (CPR photo/Ben Adler)
The worst of the 49 Fire outside Auburn is over, officials say – but not before it burned 340 acres, 50 homes and 10 businesses. Some homeowners returned to find their properties mostly unharmed; others weren't so lucky.
Doug Healing was on vacation in Oregon when the calls started coming in: his neighborhood, the Elders Corner subdivision just north of Auburn, was on fire.
Healing: “We didn’t know if we were coming home to a pile of rubble or a house.”
So he and his wife leapt into their car and sped back.
Healing: “It was really anxious – very, very anxious. We must’ve received 100 cell phone calls, people telling us our house had burned down, people telling us our house was still standing. And so we really didn’t know ‘til we saw with our own eyes.”
Healing: “We came out pretty much unscathed – we’re very fortunate.”
Turns out the fire entered Healing’s backyard – and came within 20 feet of the house.
Healing: “Took out the fence all along the back there. And part of the fence on the side of the house…”
Many other home owners, like Tami Higgs, weren’t so fortunate.
Higgs: “We were at a friend’s wedding, and my daughter called hysterical, another friend’s cell phone. And we were told that she just ran out with my granddaughter, six month old granddaughter with just a diaper on. And she barely escaped and our house was on fire. And she had no idea – they were sleeping.”
The fire started so quickly, officials had just 25 minutes to evacuate residents. Higgs lost everything, except a few pieces of her grandmother’s china.
Fire fighters shoveled through the rubble yesterday, making sure there weren’t any smoldering coals that could break into fresh flames. And at most houses, rubble was really all that was left. Not even the shells of buildings – just a bathtub or metal fireplace here, a brick column or metal spike there.
But somehow, in the heart of the fire zone, with buildings destroyed all around it, a park with a children’s play structure survived almost unharmed – an island of normalcy in a neighborhood now changed forever.