REDDING (CBS SF/AP) — A couple whose flattened trailer tire reportedly started a massive fire in Northern California has received more than 100 cards and letters with supportive messages telling them not to feel guilty.
The outpouring of support for an 81-year-old man and his wife started after Rachel Pilli made a Facebook post offering to forward compassionate messages to the couple, the Record Searchlight reported Wednesday.
Pilli doesn’t know the couple, but said a firefighter who knows them told her the woman blames herself and cries day and night. She decided to send them a card with a supportive message and then posted about the couple on social media.
“I couldn’t imagine the grief,” she said. “If I were the one responsible for the accident I couldn’t imagine the shame and the torture I’d feel.”
Pilli’s feelings were shared by many of the more than 400 people who responded on Facebook.
Justin Gray posted: “Could have happened to anyone. Its not your fault. Don’t mind the unnecessary babbling from the negative people who can’t show compassion and sympathy.”
Kimberly Klatt Peterman joined in: “It’s not your fault! Accidents happen. Yes, it’s been a devastating fire, but you are not to blame. There have been so many contributing factors that made a small spark a monster, but DON’T BLAME YOURSELVES. We may not know you, but we love you and want you to know we don’t blame you at all! The Petermans 💕”
Jo Ann Isabella Gallagher wrote: “May you find peace in the fact that it was an accident. A mechanical error. Nothing in anyone’s control. Nothing you could have foreseen. God bless and may you heal.”
Ashley Anne Wallace added: “I would like to say that I personally would like the family to know that accidents and mistakes happen ..please do not blame your self if I could I would give both of them a big hug.”
Madonna Rose wrote: “My heart go out to you both…you didn’t get up and say, today I’m gonna have a flat and start a fire that will be one of California’s worst. Please know you are not to blame. If I could I would put my arms around you and give you all the comfort I could in your time of need through this devastation.”
Lana D Wharton posted: ” Please don’t take the responsibility of this fire on your shoulders. Anyone of us could have had a blowout on that stretch of 299, it happened to be you. There are many people who cause things to happen intentional but you both are definitely not one of them. We as a Community are here to help lift that weight off your shoulders, and off the shoulders of those who have lost so much in the fire.”
Mary E. Williams wrote to the couple: “Blessings to all. We cannot control everything that happens in our lives…but we can respond by our example of compassion, love, and forgiveness. This was not anyone’s fault, rather an accident that could happen to anyone. None of us see the future…we do what we do at the time as it seems the right thing to do. God bless you all and know you are in the thoughts and prayers of many.”
The blaze that has destroyed nearly 1,100 homes and killed eight people started on July 23 with a spark from a vehicle driving on a flat tire, fire officials said. It was 67 percent contained as of Wednesday.
Pilli said she has received more than 100 cards and letters and they keep coming. People have also sent bouquets of flowers and gifts for the couple.
Pilli, a doctor and mother of three, and a friend are reading the letters before they send them to the couple to make sure all are encouraging. Thus far, they have been.
She said she hopes the couple “feel the love and forgive themselves.”
“I think the fire has caused us to look into each other’s eyes and discover the human kindness in us,” Pilli said. “People have been so generous. It’s a beautiful story of hope and community.”
© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.