SPRING VALLEY (CBS SF) — Tears welled up in Wayne McKennon’s eyes as he was questioned about the cruel fate that had befallen him and his neighbors.
McKennon was among the 2,500 residents of the Spring Valley area who were forced to flee the deadly flames of the Pawnee Fire over the weekend.
As he drove away from his home, billowing clouds were overhead and the strong smell of brunt trees and brush in the air, there was a sinking feeling of deja vu in the pit of his stomach.
It was an unfortunate fate he has endured before.
“I’ve been evacuated six times in the last five years,” he told KPIX 5. “This is nothing new (but it) is the closest one. This one here is in my backyard.”
Some of McKennon’s younger relatives stayed behind to help firefighters protect their homes. But Wayne’s spirit was a bit broken.
“(I’m) too damn old to fight it anymore,” he said. “Got my wife and my neighbor’s dog and I’m out of here.”
When asked what else he had taken with him on his forced exodus, McKennon teared up.
“What little I got,” he said. “The rest is in the house.”
Deborah Edwards was also among those gathered at a makeshift roadside evacuation encampment.
“It’s been a hard, difficult 24 hours,” she said with emotions quivering in her voice. “Not knowing if your animals are okay, if your house is okay, if your neighbors are okay.”
“We’re a community,” she continued. “Community means together.”
Terri Gonsalves was also among those evacuees “traumatized” by the fire.
“I think we’re all just so traumatized and overwhelmed with all these fires year after year, this whole community is at a breaking point,” she said.
Gonsalves put four goats into her truck after she looked out her back window and saw a big hill aflame. She is staying with her daughter in nearby Middletown, a small city where dozens of homes were destroyed in 2015.
“When this stuff happens, we rally around each other,” she said.
As of Monday, the out-of-control wildfire had grown to 8,200 acres, destroying 22 structures, at least 10 of those homes.
Were McKinnon or Edwards homes included?
Neither knew the answer on Monday. They just had to sit among their few saved belongings and hope that the fates smiles upon them.