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They Lost Their Homes To The Creek Fire - Now Evacuees Can View The Damage

Laura Tsutsui
Valley Public Radio
Jacob and Dena Villanueva point out their home on a map at Foothill Elementary School. Theirs is one of many destroyed by the Creek Fire in the Sierra National Forest.

This week, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office allowed some people whose homes were destroyed by the Creek Fire to see what’s left of their property in phases.

On Wednesday, those who live in the community of Alder Springs drove up to see the damage, including Dena and Jacob Villanueva. At the mandatory check-in at Foothill Elementary School, Red Cross Volunteers gave them a rake, shovel, sifter, and masks. 

Dena said she knew fire was always a possibility, but living in that community was irreplaceable.

“Even knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t take it back, I would still choose that same house, that same place, because those three years they were magical,” said Dena. “They were some of the best years of our lives.”

Her family lived in Alder Springs for exactly three years before evacuating. Her husband Jacob has seen lots of fire destruction as an insurance adjuster, so he thought he would know what to do. 

“In the midst of it, I’m just as lost as any other homeowner would be right now,” said Jacob. “I don't know where to go, I don’t know where to begin, who do I call, how do I start?”

They don’t know yet if they’ll rebuild on the same property. As they packed the tools in their sedan and got ready to drive up, they said they hoped to find something left of their dream home. 

Laura Tsutsui was a reporter and producer for Valley Public Radio. She joined the station in 2017 as a news intern, and later worked as a production assistant and weekend host. Laura covered local issues ranging from politics to housing, and produced the weekly news program Valley Edition. She left the station in November 2020.
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