Couple Loses Home and Thriving Tea Garden Business to Camp Fire, Vows to Rebuild

California Connection
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CONCOW -- With minutes to escape the Camp Fire, a Concow couple was forced to leave everything behind when they saw a tower of flames inch closer.

They lost their home and their business, which is the largest tea garden in California.

Weeks after the Camp Fire tore through Concow, the winding roads are lined with destruction. Piles of rubble where family homes once stood.

"This was the entry to our house right here," said Michael Fritts.

Hardly anything was left of the house Fritts shared with his wife Donna.

"We had kitchen and living and dining room up front," said Fritts.

The couple watched the flames inch closer last month.

"I looked out here and the trees out here behind us were on fire. 150-foot flames hitting trees right by us," Fritts said. "I was gonna start hosing the front of the house - then I looked up at the flames right there and I just dropped the hose and I ran"

But, the Fritts' didn't just lose their home, they lost their business, Golden Feather Tea.

The business started in 2010 when Fritts got sick.

"I came down with chronic Lyme disease. Became disabled, didn’t know what to do," Fritts expressed.

He says gardening and learning to make tea is what kept him going.

"My garden and landscape work was my therapy," Stated Fritts.

He taught himself everything.

"You take a tip and 1 or 2 or 3 leaves depending on what kind of tea you wanna produce," Fritts explained.

With 800 plants last year, Fritts says Golden Feather Tea was the largest tea garden in California.

Their Oolong became popular at a San Francisco restaurant.

"We’re world famous and we have people come here from all over the world, had people come here and we will again," Fritts said.

The fire destroyed about half of the tea plants on the property.

Fritts says not only does he plan on rebuilding his home and his tea garden but, he plans on doing it in the same place. As for his attitude, he says there’s no use getting too upset, he's trying to move forward.

"it’s just a matter of circumstance, it happened, I'm not gonna let it take me down and ‘poor pitiful me’," he said.

But there is hope. Fritts believes many of his plants are burned but not dead.

And four of the five cats that lived on the property survived as well.

A sign of resilience in the devastation.

Fritts says Concow is a perfect location to grow tea plants.

Not only does he want to rebuild, he wants to continue to grow his business.

The Fritts’ have set up a GoFundMe, click here to view their page.

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