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Archbold Area Natives Share California Fire Experiences




Lynn Raiger

Lynn Raiger

As wildfires raged in California, people with connections to Archbold were impacted, some minimally, some greatly.

The first fires began Sunday, Oct. 21, and were fanned by the roaring Santa Ana winds that raced across the mountains at speeds approaching 100 miles per hour. M Hundreds of homes were destroyed, and close to a million people were evacuated.

Several lives were lost, The damage estimates are around $1.6 billion.

Lynn Raiger, daughter of Roger and Nancy Taylor, Archbold, has lived in Escondido, north of San Diego, for seven years with her two children. She didn’t learn about the fires until the evening of Sunday, Oct. 21.

In an electronic mail message to this newspaper, Raiger said she fell asleep that night “feeling a little unsettled, as I had been through the Cedar fire of 2003, but never had to evacuate.”

She did, however, run her family through the packing-up drill, gathering family mementos and important documents, just in case.

School was cancelled Monday, Oct. 22, and the family stayed glued to the television.

A friend, Debi, who lives in a rural area, was evacuated that morning. She arrived at the Raiger house at 10 am with her three dogs, joining Lynn, her 14-year-old daughter Allegra, their dog and two cats.

Her son Phelan, 10, was with his father at the time.

As Monday wore on, they kept in touch with friends and families, packed bags, and kept lists of things to save from their homes.

Debi returned to her house to possibly evacuate her four hors- es, leaving her three dogs with Raiger.

Evacuate

Tuesday morning, Oct. 23, Raiger’s neighbor knocked on the door and told her they had received a reverse-911 call telling them to evacuate.

“So, having mostly already packed up, we started gathering pet supplies and loaded the two cats into their pet carrier. I have an SUV (sport-utility vehicle), so there was room for all of us and the important things like baby pictures, legal documents, artwork, and jewelry, along with the pet food, kitty litter, and our personal clothing and toiletries for a few days.”

By 9:30 a.m. they left to pick up Raigers’ camper, parked at a nearby campground. The campground managers called Raiger, saying “I had 20 minutes to come get my trailer if I wanted it.”

With an SUV loaded with Raiger and her daughter, their possessions, four dogs, and two cats, and a camper in tow, they went north, eventually winding up in a discount store parking lot along with many other campers.

She went into the store to buy supplies, including dog leashes; she found herself with four dogs, but only two leashes.

“I must have looked pretty frazzled, because a really nice lady stopped to pet the dogs, who were hooked up to the parked trailer,” said Raiger.

“She offered to take us to a dog park, as it was over 100 degrees in the parking lot, and the dogs were very restless and hot.”

The dog park was a welcome respite, and Raiger said the woman who directed them “was definitely a good Samaritan Christian woman, and also a nurse who super-glued and re-bandaged my daughter’s finger,” after Allegra had cut herself.

“What a lifesaver she was emotionally for me,” Raiger said.

The family, including animals, stayed in dorm rooms at a Christian conference center.

Return

By Wednesday, Oct. 24, they were allowed to return to their homes.

“How good it was, still standing there!” she said.

“There was black soot on the driveway and sidewalks. Fortunately, I had closed all the windows, so there was only a thin layer of dust and ash. But the smell of smoke was very strong. We wore bandanas over our mouths.”

“I am very grateful to have my kids safe with me now, my home untouched, and my place of work still here, and the air is clearing.”

The fires that threatened her are out.

“I am also grateful my friend was finally able to get her dogs on Thursday,” she said.

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Maggie Short, Archbold, reported that her nephew, Brice Jernigan and his wife, April, were living in San Diego, and were evacuated. No further details were available.

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Stacy Guelde, the former Stacy Bosco, a 2001 Archbold High School graduate, teaches in Fullerton and lives in South Orange County, about seven miles from the Santiago Fires in Irvine.

“You cannot see the fire from my house, because it is in the canyon on the other side of the mountain, but the air outside is smoky,” she said in a Friday, Oct. 26 email to the Buckeye.

She reported the smoke appeared to be like fog, and her students were staying inside.

“My car is full of soot, my classroom is covered in it. My white papers in my printer were brown the morning after the fires started.

“Our patio at our home is the worst; there is a layer of soot on the ground, so we have kept our windows and patio doors closed to try to keep as much out of our house as we can.

“We were nervous that a fire could start, after hearing that the Santiago fire was started by an arsonist. We got lucky that there was no one in our area that would do such a thing,” Guelde said.

In her class, “The kids like to talk about how the sun looks when we are walking to class. The smoke and fire make it burn a crazy red color.”

– – –

Bill Fortier, Ridgeville Corners, reported that his daughter, Nicole O’Brien, lives in San Diego with her husband Will, close to the ocean, away from the fires.

However, she told him the air smells like a campfire. Soot was not falling, but she hung some wet towels on a railing. When she returned to them a few hours later, “they were nasty.”

– – –

Sandy Miller, the former Sandy Basselman, reports in a Saturday, Oct. 27 email, “We were just over 30 miles from the closest fires.”

She and husband Mark and children Peter, Alyssa, and Matthew live in La Canada, north of Los Angeles.

“Last Monday, the air was still okay, but by Tuesday, you could smell the smoke and it was just all hazy- the sun was orange. When you looked up at the sky, it was just a layer of brown haze. It was pretty disgusting.

“The kids couldn’t play outside

at recess or physical education, because our air was marked ‘unhealthy,” and all sports activities were cancelled.

“Our air quality is now in the moderate range. Things are looking up.

“With fires all around, you just kind of plan out what to grab if it’s our turn to go. Luckily this time around all we did was plan.”

– – –

Lawrence Short, Archbold, reported his son, Eric, and his wife, Barbara, told him the fires were not close enough to them to bother them. Eric and Barbara live in Altadena, in the Los Angeles area.

– – –

The Ridgeville Township News reported Larry and Wendi Benecke sent an email Monday, Oct. 22.

In that message, they said, “We are packed and ready to go. The areas around us have been told to evacuate.

“The fires are horrible, the worst I have ever seen. Several of the fires will be burning all the way to the ocean. The smell and the smoke are affecting breathing and eyes. We have everything closed up, but it still gets in the house.

“So many have lost their homes. This is truly scary.”

They later reported their home, in San Marcos, wasn’t touched, and they were not forced to evacuate.

– – –

Bill Sy, former pastor at St. Peter Lutheran Church, Ridgeville Corners, is now a pastor in San Diego County. He told Vern and Phyllis Hesterman, Ridgeville Corners, he and wife Jodi were evacuated.

The Ridgeville Township News reported Bill called in by cell phone on Oct. 23, saying, “The fire is just south of us; you can actually see the flames. This is unbelievable. The smoke is horrendous, all the hills in the distance were covered with smoke and the ridge beyond us was a line of fire.

“We really appreciate your prayers,” he said.

In a call to the Hestermans on Saturday, Oct. 27, the Sys reported their house was okay, but a little smoky. They were evacuated Monday, Oct. 22 and returned Friday, Oct. 26.

– – –

Vicki Hesterman, daughter of Vern and Phyllis, lives in the San Diego area, but is currently visiting in Ridgeville Corners. She’s heard from neighbors her home is safe.

“A couple of days before the fires started, it wasn’t even that warm,” she said.

She was told “lots of churches and Christian groups have helped. It’s completely different than New Orleans (during the Hurricane Katrina crisis), said some of the relief workers who helped in both places.

“People were really taking care of each other. They were touched by how many people helped,” Vicki said.

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