BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — With burned-out cars on the roadways and charred homes, it seems almost everyone in Berry Creek, California, has lost something to the North Complex fire.
Firefighters battling the flames are no exception, including Chief Reed Rankin, a 28-year volunteer firefighter.
“We seen the community of Paradise burn up and that was always in the back of our mind,” Rankin said. “If we get a wind event up here and there’s a fire, we’re going to be in trouble.”
On Tuesday, the North Complex fire closed in on Berry Creek, so Rankin went door to door, racing to evacuate his neighbors.
“We told them, ‘Get in your car and go now. You have no time.’” Rankin said.
He didn’t even consider the fate of his own house until the next morning.
“I found out my home burned down,” Rankin said. “Everything you ever had collected, all your photo albums, everything you ever had in your life was just right there, and it’s all gone.”
And he wasn’t alone. Six of the seven volunteer firefighters in the town also lost their homes.
Rankin’s water well-making business was also destroyed, along with the fire station and equipment.
“Disastrous fire,” he said.
Yet, he continues to fight the blaze.
“I don’t want to take any time off because I don’t want to sit there and think about what I lost,” Rankin said. “So, I’m just going to stay here and help my community.”
Every day, he patrols hotspots to prevent any further damage.
“We’re just going to pick up our pieces. We’re going to stay strong, and we’re going to try to rebuild as best as we can,” Rankin said.
Rankin did not have homeowners insurance, so friends have started a GoFundMe page, which has raised more than $13,000 towards its $50,000 goal.