Butte Fire Victims Work to Rebuild One Year Later

MOUNTAIN RANCH -- Tens of thousands of acres and hundreds of homes were destroyed in 2015 when the devastating Butte Fire hit Calaveras and Amador counties. Just two days shy of the one year anniversary of the fire’s start, some are rebuilding their homes and their lives.

The journey, however, even almost 365 days later, is tough. Many are still struggling to figure out what’s next.

"That first year is just full of firsts," said Susan Galvan with the organization Calaveras Recovers.

Butte Fire victim Debra Frank didn’t think she’d ever have to go through the firsts she's encountered in the last year. The first time seeing her home in ashes, the first time not celebrating the holidays and the first time starting over.

"Your whole world’s gone," said Frank.

Frank’s life changed last year on Sept. 9. The Butte Fire took down the Mountain Ranch home Frank lived in for decades. She lost everything.

"I try not to think of anything I lost, it’s too devastating," said Frank.

After her house and all of her belongings were destroyed, Frank thought her and her partner would live in a motor home for the rest of their lives. With the help of Calaveras Recovers that's all changing. The community organization, which helps uninsured and under-insured Butte Fire victims rebuild their homes, is rebuilding a new home for Frank on the same property as her old home.

Calaveras Recovers uses donated money, money from homeowners and the help of volunteers to build homes like the one for Frank. By fall, nine projects will be underway.

Frank can't wait to move in, which she's expected to do by the end of October. She is already making plans for Christmas and where she'll put her tree.

Rebuilding from the ground up, however, isn’t an easy or a fast process. Other families aren’t as close to getting their sense of normalcy back.

Like Frank, Darci Harris lost her home, too. But unlike Frank, Harris’ journey doesn’t have a happy ending just yet. For the past 12 months, home for Harris and her two young children is a donated trailer. One year later, finding a permanent place for her family is tough.

"It’s taken this long to get a flushing toilet, to get an air conditioner for the trailer, to get a shower," said Harris.

The trailer, a donated shed and a small structure built using FEMA money sits on the land where this family’s home in Mountain Ranch once was.

"I loved my little house more than anything. It was paradise for my children. It was sanctuary. It was home," she said.

The future is unclear. Harris doesn’t know if she will be able to rebuild on her property or if she’ll have to leave Mountain Ranch.

Not every family’s journey is the same, but what's keeping this family fighting through the one year anniversary of the Butte Fire is hope for a brighter future.

The town of Mountain Ranch plans to honor the one year anniversary of the Butte Fire on Saturday. The unveiling of an art mosaic made with remains of the fire and a baseball game held at a field damaged during the fire will commemorate how far the community has come since last year.