As Valley Fire Evacuations are Lifted, Many Return Home to Nothing

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LAKE COUNTY --

As fire crews get a stronger hold on the Valley Fire more evacuees are returning to their homes -- some are returning to find nothing left.

Evacuations in Middletown were nearly all lifted Saturday. Fire officials say only a few locations west of Highway 29 remain closed. Hidden Valley Lake evacuations were lifted Sunday.

Many families sifted through rubble where there homes used to be.

"We all feel really sad about the damage of our home," said Julio Chavez.

Chavez's family lost all they had. Not sure of the condition of their house while they were living with friends this week, their fears were confirmed as they made their way back to Middletown.

"Of course there's no telephone, house is gone, wonderful family," said Don Loveless, as he looked over a field of rubble.

Loveless used to tutor three kids in the home. He hasn't been able to reach them and couldn't check on them until Sunday when evacuations were lifted.

"The poor husband and wife, both had full-time jobs, may have been working double-time jobs because they just bought this house a couple years ago. Beautiful house," Loveless said.

Cal Fire's latest update recorded 1,050 homes destroyed. Assessment teams only knew of about 600 just Saturday morning, and Cal Fire officials say that number could grow.

"As they come to those areas that have not been surveyed, obviously the numbers will rise," said Fernando Herrera.

"You sit there, and you feel guilty you're there with them, and we got everything and they don't have anything," Dale Mitchell said.

Mitchell and his wife found their home untouched by the fire. They've been helping friends who haven't been so fortunate.

"I wish there was more we could do for them," Mitchell said.

Insurance companies have set up booths at the Senior Center in Middletown and the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga to aid those who've lost homes.

Three more evacuations will be lifted tomorrow by 5 p.m. for Loch Lomond, Seigler Springs and Bonanza Springs.

As the last evacuation orders are lifted and more people return home, the real toll and devastation of the Valley Fire becomes clearer.