Brandi Cloutier is mourning the loss of her home and her hometown of Paradise after the Camp Fire reduced the small town to rubble and ash.
Brandi was at home sleeping until she was alerted to the Camp Fire by her dog Boss. She had only minutes to get out of her home because the next door neighbor’s house was already on fire. She hopped into one friend’s car but they quickly got gridlocked. Because they were at a standstill the back tire caught on fire from the intense heat and popped. So they proceeded on foot until another friend picked her up.
She doesn’t remember what time of day it was but everything was pitch black because of all the smoke. All around her there were explosions every few minutes from propane tanks. She was petrified; it was like a war zone. Then they got gridlocked again. They got out of the car to ask people where do we go to get out? The Sheriff couldn’t even direct them, he just said to run. Finally, the gridlock eased and they were able to get out by driving right through the fire at one point.
Two images Brandi will never forget was a horse that had run by with its tail on fire and she saw people who were on fire. She is grateful for her life but is mourning the loss of her hometown.
She feels her peace of mind was taken and it will never be the same again. She found herself staying in the Church of Nazarene Red Cross shelter in Oroville at first before coming to Silver Dollar Fairgrounds.
“The Red Cross has been very kind and supportive. My hometown where I got married, had a child, went to church, worked and had friends. It’s all gone. They’ve been especially accommodating to my dog Boss. They’ve been really cool with him. They didn’t have to make accommodations but they did so we could be near one another while I figure out what’s next.”
Story and photo by Vivian Moy, American Red Cross volunteer