While many of us are focusing on family and friends during this Thanksgiving week, the thousands of people impacted by the Valley Fire are still trying their best to survive. The fire destroyed 1,280 homes in Middletown and surrounding areas in September. Nearly 2,500 people have requested assistance from FEMA.
Today, still, the cruel smell of charred homes comes and goes with the wind. Torched hillsides peak down on Middletown. Thousands of people were displaced.
“The fire started when I was at my soccer game so I didn't have a chance to get any of my stuff, so that was pretty crazy to start from like zero,” said Middletown High School sophomore Aly Ferguson.
“When I came back the next morning my house was gone,” said student Scottie Kelly.
Both students are among the 100 students at the high school who lost their homes.
Their principal, Bill Roderick, took us for a drive around Middletown to show how the devastation can still be seen at every turn.
“We had a lot of kids who lived here and it was gone,” Roderick said pointing to an apartment complex across the street from the high school.
We turned north on Calistoga road, more reminders.
“You got a house there that burned, houses back there that burned, houses over there that burned,” he said.
Finally, Roderick turned onto his street.
“This is my neighbor's [house] and then this is my house. This is where my house was,” Roderick said pointing to an empty lot.
Roderick and others are now trying to move forward. He just heard back from an architect and plans to start applying for permits soon to rebuild.
The people helping haven't left either. Volunteers at the Cobb Mountain Lions Club say they serve 15-20 families a day. They continue to run a free store for fire victims three days a week. Volunteers say they are in need of winter clothes for the victims.
“If the need is here, we're here to help fill the need,” said volunteer Rose Geck.
Two months later, Middletown and other towns in this area continue to push forward.
“That's what I've been telling the student body. As long as you're still standing, you're still in the fight,” Bill Roderick said. “The group of kids that comes through this will be resilient. They're going to be able to handle anything."