Former Firebaugh High School teacher loses everything in Camp Fire

Sign at the edge of Paradise burns down

A woman who taught at Firebaugh High School for 20 years moved back to her hometown of paradise in 2012. Thursday, she saw her childhood erased as Paradise burned to the ground.

“Burning pine cones were coming down, and leaves and burning branches. It was sitting in your car like rain, but it was burning,” said Melissa Ward, who was forced to evacuate Paradise Thursday.

“It was just devastatingly scary, I don’t even know the right words.”

Ward dropped her granddaughter off at school like any other morning.

Half an hour later, she says the family was grabbing what they could, and rushing out of town through burning streets.

“It was so scary. And there are so many things that are left in the house. And you think in your head, get the things that are irreplaceable. So you whip through and you grab that, but then you get in your car and you think, ‘Well I need a toothbrush!’” said Ward.

Ward has a friend in Chico she’s staying with, and her daughter is staying elsewhere with another friend. But none everyone knows someone who can house them.

“I went to K-Mart to get a couple things, and there’s so many people there getting stuff like heaters and blankets. And nobody has places to go,” said Ward, sobbing.

Ward says she’s worried not just about what’s happening now, but also what will happen in the future.

Will her hometown ever be the same again?

“Our whole home base is gone. Like, high school reunions, where are you supposed to go? There’s no high school!” exclaimed Ward.

“Like, who wants to go back there anyway? There’s no hospital, your kids can’t go to school. It’s going to be a ghost town... There’s no water, there’s no PG&E, there’s no nothing. Everything’s burned”

Ward says over the next few days she'll be trying to work with the Red Cross and insurance agents.

Her son also set up a fundraiser for her on Facebook.

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