Over $12,000 has been raised for Cork woman Zita Harrington Biehle and her six children after the Carr wildfire in California destroyed their family home and the majority of their treasured possessions.
Cork woman Zita Harrington Biehle and her six children, aged between 23 months and 17 years, have been forced to flee for the second time as the California wildfires that turned their family home to ashes edge ever closer to their temporary accommodation.
Harrington Biehle, who is originally from Berehaven in Co Cork and who moved to California in 2000, was first forced to run from the Carr fire in late July as the firenado came to engulf her home in Redding. On Saturday, the single mother and her children were once again forced to move from their temporary stay in Falls Road due to a new fire.
“What were the odds, two weeks to the day and virtually the same time to be loading, at this point, all our worldly possessions and our dog into our van and leaving to find a place to stay,” she posted to a GoFundMe page which has already raised over $12,000 for the family as they come to terms with the devastation of losing treasured belongings and family heirlooms, as well as facing the prospect of a full year away from their home in Redding as the area is cleared.
“Not a mandatory evacuation this time. Power off in-house, ash falling and kids saw fire on hills nearby so were absolutely terrified it was going to come and take what is now home for a few more weeks along with the few treasured possessions they have left in the world.”
Harrington Biehle, who works as a paramedic in Falls River close to where her emergency accommodation was located, was traveling home from work two weeks ago when she heard of the mandatory evacuation from her home.
“We thought we were in the safest place possible,” she told the Irish Independent.
“There was no ash or smoke, there were no warnings on the news. The fire was miles away.
“Just in case we would have to evacuate, I got someone to pick up the kids. Within two or three minutes while we drove home, everything changed. We could see flames, what was nothing before was now all brown.
“I checked on the neighbors while the kids ran inside to grab some pictures, including the only one I have of my dad. By then I could see a wall of flames. We got into the car and fled.”
The family has since returned to the site of what was once their home but little remains but ashes.
“As you can see there really is no home or car left,” the Cork woman added in a GoFundMe update.
“My daughters so very determined to find things in the ashes. We did find a couple of cups and dishes but that's about it. Hard for kids going to where their bedrooms were, digging as best they can, trying to find something, anything.”
The family of seven is missing not just the irreplaceable items they lost in the fire but are currently struggling to continue with some kind of normality in life as the wildfires continue to rage.
“It’s the stupid stuff I miss most, like my Barry’s Tea. I don’t have a kettle to make tea. When I want to cook, I don’t have pots and pans big enough to cook for six,” she said.
“I miss having a table we can all sit around, as family meals are important to me. The simple things that are normally taken for granted, we don’t have anymore.
“When my mum got married, she wore a lace wedding gown which was later made into a Christening robe that we all wore, it’s gone. My kid’s blanket she had since she was a baby is gone, all their electronics – gone.”
The Carr Fire the family fled from has become one of the deadliest of the almost 20 wildfires currently raging in California; entering its fourth week but now believed to be 61 percent contained. While the containment is progressing, authorities cannot predict when the fire can be brought to an end as the northern part of the blaze remains active.
Wow. This used to be the neighborhood of some of my employees. Despite losing everything they own, many of them still come to work to restore power, fight fires, and repair damaged facilities. My heart and gratitude goes out to all of them. #Carrfire pic.twitter.com/fvUzWvV0eN— Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) August 12, 2018
While only the second biggest fire in Shasta County, California, it has killed eight people and destroyed 201,680 acres so far.
You can donate to the family of seven as they look for further temporary accommodation via their GoFundMe page here.