By CARL MANNING, American Red Cross volunteer
Despite losing her home and everything in it to the Boles Fire, Tiffany Duhon still wants to live in Weed, California with her five children. With some help from the American Red Cross, it looks like she will.
Tiffany and her family settled into Weed four years ago and she began taking college classes with the goal of becoming a lawyer. Over the years she and her family have become part of the community, active in church and school activities.
“I fell in love with this town. It’s so nice and quiet and that’s what I want. This is a perfect place for my children,” said Tiffany whose children include a 14-year-old daughter and four sons, ages 11, 10, 9 and 6.
Tiffany said she got a helping hand in finding place to live from Red Cross volunteer Debbie Nicholau from the American Red Cross Northeastern California Chapter.
But Debbie is quick to say there also were other Red Cross volunteers working with her in following up on a tip they had received about a house being available.
“It wasn’t just me; we’re a team for all of this,” Debbie said.
Recalling the fire, Tiffany said she was on her way home from running errands when she saw the smoke. She returned home and grabbed her children’s birth certificates, a child’s stuffed bunny and her phone charger, figuring she would be coming back.
She picked up her children and some of their friends at their schools, helped reunite them with their families and turned her attention to her children.
Tiffany and her children found their way to a Red Cross shelter where they stayed for several days. At the shelter she saw a video of her home burning but refused to be depressed although she admitted that the full impact has yet to hit her.
“I lost everything but the way I’m looking at it is that my babies are still alive and that’s all that matters,” she said. “Everything else can be replaced.”
With Debbie at her side, Tiffany returned to her home that’s now ashes, burned wood and a few scorched or burned personal items. She was amazed that somebody – maybe firefighters – retrieved a few items and lined them up on a beam for her.
“I’m so thankful…they went through all that and they probably didn’t even know me,” Tiffany said.
As they looked at the scene, Debbie and Tiffany hugged and the two reached out and took each other’s hands as they walked past the debris.
Tiffany realizes there will challenges ahead as she goes through the long term recovery, but she said her faith will get her through.
“This is the most peace I’ve had in my life because God has us and we’ll be OK,” she said. “On the path of life, you have rocks and this is just a big boulder.”