Just seeing the gazebo standing next to her burned-out home on
"It was our 25th wedding anniversary gift," Calvert said of the gazebo.
A circle of daffodils blooming in the chill of the March morning also made her smile. They were a welcoming glimpse of new life amid the devastation of the blackened earth and the crumbled remains of her family's two-story home destroyed in Monday night's intense wildfire north of
Counting her blessings: That's what Calvert was doing as she walked around the perimeter of the home she escaped with her husband, Wayne, and two of her four children -- Wesley 17, a senior at
The family is temporarily staying with another child, Emily, 23, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment in
Meanwhile, the fire has left their home a shell, with the exposed fireplace in the center of the house still standing. Panels of tin from the roof have melted into shapes that appear flowing as they hang over what brick still stands from the exterior walls.
Where the garage once stood, Richele points to something unidentifiable in a pile of ash: It's a restored 1980 Corvette. Nearby are deformed tool chests that held all of
"It was a very, very nice home," Richele said.
It was built in 1979, and the Calverts purchased it three years ago. From the front it looked like a ranch home, but in the back was a walkout basement. The downstairs had a full kitchen and bathroom.
"We thought it would be a wonderful apartment someday for our parents when they were older, or our kids," Richele said.
Located on the northeast corner of
However, after it experienced severe hail damage, home insurance became too prohibitive for them to afford. Now they are forced to rebuild and replace everything from toothbrushes to the riding lawnmower without the help of a check from an insurance company.
Richele marvels at the way the fire moved. Their home was totally incinerated, yet across the street a mobile home was untouched by the fire, which came sweeping out of the west at 50 mph.
For now, the logistics of rebuilding are overwhelming for the Calverts. Richele appreciates her employer at the
A week ago they had a home. Friday morning Richele was staring at the remains of her life in the ashes, still wearing the jeans she had on when they fled Monday night. They are the only pants she has, except for what she is borrowing from her daughter. She is quick to add that people have been very generous, offering clothing, gift cards and establishing a fund in their name.
She recalled talking to Katrina on Sunday after residents in the Highlands had to evacuate.
"I told her she should think about what she would take if we had to leave."
But when the moment came and Richele looked out the window of her house and saw flames rushing their way, there wasn't a second to consider what to take. All she could do was get her family out the door alive.
Now she thinks about the cash left in the underwear drawer and the underwear. All the home videos, pictures and a grandfather's crafted woodwork -- all turned to ash. A week later she is just thankful for the gazebo.
Continuing to count her blessings, she points to the family's pickup truck that survived. They had just put on new tires. Plus there is the tarp over the old car
"We have a lot to think about and consider," Richele said. "The worst has happened. It's going to get better. We have our kids and we were able to get out in time. We can start over. This stuff is just stuff."
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