Former longtime Pahrump residents Melissa and Carl Metz were still settling into their brand new home in Ocean Park, Washington last month when Melissa received some very unsettling news about a relative in Shasta County, California.
The two learned that her brother’s home was one of the many structures not far from Redding, California destroyed by the Carr fire on July 26.
Adding to the personal tragedy was the fact that her nephew and his family also lost their home one day prior.
Metz noted that both father and son, Randy and Shane Ledbetter, respectively, lost nearly everything they owned.
“They both have families and now they have nothing left,” Metz said. “My brother is 61 years old and his son is in his early 40s. When the fire was about eight miles away from them, they started prepacking all of the important stuff they needed to take with them. They have been living in California for quite a while.”
While holding on to the hope that their homes would be spared from the fire, Metz said eventually all of the residents in the neighborhood were ordered to leave the area.
“They thought he was going to be safe, but all of a sudden, the fire just came up quickly,” she said. “Randy got a knock on the door by the police who said everybody had to evacuate or would be arrested. That’s when the fire was about four houses down from his. Fortunately, he was already prepacked so all he had to do was get his wife and his dog and go. Randy moved to the outskirts of Redding many years ago. They both had very beautiful homes. Fortunately, they were both insured.”
Though both father and son were able to save important documents and a few family heirlooms and photographs, the remainder of their belongings fell victim to the flames.
“Randy said he is just numb,” Metz said. “Much of the furniture in his house was built by him, but he just couldn’t take it with him. Fortunately, nobody got hurt. They just got their hearts broken. My brother is disabled and his wife works for the VA medical clinic, up there.”
Metz also said she’s thankful to hear about how much support is pouring in from areas unaffected by the wildfires.
“They have friends down in the LA area who brought two big truckloads of essential items and handed them out to all of the residents of the neighborhood,” she said. “There are people coming in from everywhere to help out the people of the town. The fire took out almost every home in that development.”
Additionally, Metz said the behavior of the wildfire was astonishing as it approached and eventually enveloped the neighborhood.
“Randy showed me a picture of where his home burned down, but across the street, there are two houses that were still standing,” she said. “It was like they weren’t even in the fire. There are also trees that are standing that never got touched by the fire but everything around them has burned down. He was telling me about these fire tornadoes that create their own wind. He said it was going about 60 miles per hour and going crazy in all different directions.”
Regarding how her brother and nephew are holding up as a result of their loss, Metz noted that both are trying to remain calm and strong in the aftermath of the catastrophe.
“Knowing my brother, even though he is devastated, he’s out there handing stuff out and helping everybody who needs it,” she surmised. “They are still in shock but the way they handle it, is just to get in there and help anyone who needs help. They just try to keep themselves preoccupied to take their minds off the tragedy of it all. That’s what Randy does. He has always been there for everybody, and he’s not used to people being there for him though.”
A GoFundMe account has been established to assist those impacted by the Carr fire, described by California officials as the sixth most destructive wildfire in state history.
The fire, which claimed its seventh victim on Saturday, August 4, grew nearly 10,000 acres over the weekend, and has so far charred more than 163,207 acres and destroyed close to 1,100 residential structures.
At present, the Carr fire, one of more than a dozen wildland fires presently burning in California, is roughly 45 percent contained.
Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @pvtimes