Butte County Evacuees Return Home to Devastated Communities

MAGALIA -- The first round of evacuees of the Camp Fire were being let back into their neighborhoods as some evacuation orders were lifted.

Jack and Cami Gilbert were a little tired after a long drive from Santa Rosa back to their home in Magalia.

"Just looked and just could not believe we’re watching the town burn," Jack Gilbert recalled.

While his wife was already in Folsom with their son, Jack Gilbert did not leave his home right away when the Camp Fire broke out. He thought the winds were on his side, that is until the second day of the firefight.

"Then I looked directly east and saw a great big red sky," he told FOX40.

He was able to safely evacuate and meet his wife.

For nearly 11 days the couple wondered what would become of their home of 25 years. It took them five years to build it from the ground up.

"Oh my gosh, every day you saw this map and all burning and it was like 2 inches from our house," Jack Gilbert said.

North Coutelenc, the area of Magalia where the Gilberts live, was among the first zones where evacuation orders were lifted. Areas just to their south were still evacuated Tuesday.

So it's easy to imagine the feeling when the Gilberts pulled up to their home to find it still standing.

"Oh such a relief because you fantasize about inches of ash," Cami Gilbert said. "It was just a joyful feeling."

Most of the Gilberts’ neighbors were not back yet. They say about half of their close friends already know they’ve lost their homes.

Although their house still stands, their community will never be the same.

"To go to the grocery store, the library, the bank. We loved it up here," Jack and Cami Gilbert said.

Many of the regular places that made the community a home have been left in rubble.