UPDATE: Man loses mother, aunt & uncle in North Complex fire

Local News

UPDATE (Sept. 17, 6:45 p.m.) — Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Thursday evening that the remains of Suzan Violet Zurz were positively identified.

Read the original story below.


BERRY CREEK, Calif. (KTXL) — Berry Creek is dealing with immense loss with homes across the town flattened and at least 10 residents dying in the North Complex West Zone Fire.

Zygy Roe-Zurz lost his aunt, Millicent Catarancuic, and uncle, Philip Rubel, in the fire and said he fears the worst for his mother, who is still missing.

As the days go by, he said his hopes of finding her alive are wearing thin.

“There could be some far-fetched scenario and every ounce of me wishes that were true,” Roe-Zurz told FOX40. ”But the odds are that this horrific fire caught so many people.”

He has not heard from his mother, 76-year-old Suzan Violet Zurz, since Sept. 8 when the North Complex West Zone Fire tore through Berry Creek.

The remains of his uncle were found in a pickup truck. His aunt was found nearby down an embankment.

Zurz, Catarancuic and Rubel shared a home on Graystone Lane, which is now in ashes. 

“I woke up and almost everything I owned and many people that I loved were just wiped off the face of the earth,” Roe-Zurz said.

He talked on the phone with his mother the night of the fire. She said they were packing up to evacuate but then decided against it. 

“They lived in Berry Creek for a number of years. They had gone through this before,” he explained. “I trusted that they were aware of what was going on around them.”

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said somehow the family received false information that the fire was 51% contained.

“It’s still hard to understand why they didn’t leave. Why they felt that they weren’t in grave danger,” Roe-Zurz said.

He said he’s searching for answers as to what notice his family got the night of the blaze.

“We need to learn from these,” he said. “We need to do better. We can do better.”

While he’s lost so much, Roe-Zurz said he plans to come back to Berry Creek to rebuild in honor of his loved ones.

“If it is the place where my family members left this earth, that piece of land means an awful lot to me,” he told FOX40. “So, we want to understand what can we do better? God forbid there is a next time.”

With all the damage, it will take some time until the rebuilding process can start. There’s no word yet on when evacuees can return to their properties in Berry Creek.

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