EL CENTRO, Calif. — A couple left an El Centro motel with their three young boys Monday to return to what is left of their home near Shelter Valley after it was destroyed in a wildfire over the weekend.
The fire, dubbed the Southern Fire, broke out Saturday evening east of Julian. Flames quickly spread as winds picked up and Eddie Valenzuela and Priscilla Flores saw smoke behind their home.
“Everything inside, around — everything’s gone,” Flores said.
“We just called the fire department and next thing you know, it was like a torch went off and lit up everything fast,” Flores said.
The next day, a family member sent photos showing what was left of the home.
“I’m looking at it, like, there’s nothing. Not even my stove is there, not even the frame of our washer is there,” said Flores.
The family camped out the first night as around 500 people evacuated the nearby Butterfield Ranch community. They later ended up at the motel, where the Red Cross was helping dozens of other evacuees.
Monday afternoon, evacuation orders were lifted and the family was anxious to return.
“I need our kids to see it. I don’t want them to think we took them away from it,” Flores said.
Cal Fire said Monday evening that the fire had burned 5,184 acres was 55% contained. Three homes and two buildings were destroyed.
A GoFundMe account was set up to help the family get back on their feet.
“Other people have lost people in fire. Just grateful we walked out alive with our kids,” Flores said.