LAKE BERRYESSA (CBS SF) — Debra Healer was stunned as she surveyed the charred wreckage of her home and those of her neighbors Sunday, a day after the destructive Steele Fire roared over the ridge and laid waste to all that was in its path.
Her family has lived in this neighborhood on the south shore of Lake Berryessa for 16 years and now all they owned had been reduced in a matter of minutes to twisted metal, charred brick and ashes.
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Eight homes were destroyed, four badly damaged as the fire raced though the Barryessa Highlands community of 200 residents. Healer said the wind-whipped flames were ruthless — devouring homes, dry brush and trees in its path.
“Oscar from down the street from us is literally our hero,” she told KPIX 5. “He knocked at our door — we were in shock, we were trying to get things and he’s like –‘Get Out!’ And I’m telling you it was 5 minutes (before the fire arrived).”
The flames were moving quickly.
“It must have hit our home right after we left,” she said.
With limited access, Cal Fire Division Chief Mike Wilson said it was important that the residents quickly abandoned their homes.
“People need to evacuate and evacuate early when a fire is in their area,” he said.
Bill Jones’ home is among those damaged.
“There’s a beam under the house that caught fire so its red-tagged,” he said. “I have no where to go, but I’m going to do my best.”
Jones was stunned by the level of destruction throughout his neighborhood.
“It was bad,” he said of the fire’s approach on Saturday. “It was like something I’ve never seen. I was a fighter pilot in Vietnam and I’ve seen hell turned loose. This was bad.”