Residents Return to Calif. Neighborhood Consumed by Fire | NBC 10 Philadelphia
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Residents Return to Calif. Neighborhood Consumed by Fire

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    Residents of Lake County allowed back into their neighborhoods Friday saw for the first time the havoc wreaked by the massive Clayton Fire. (Published Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016)

    Residents of Lake County, California, were allowed back to their neighborhoods for the first time on Friday to see the devastation wreaked by the massive Clayton Fire. 

    While some were relieved to see their homes standing, residents Kevin Dean and his wife Katie were among those crying as they sifted through the ashes. 

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    “It’s all gone,” Dead said, as he and his wife tried to look for anything that survived the flames. 

    About 189 homes were lost in the fire, which scorched about 4,000 acres. That number grew as of Friday, when the fire topped out at 90 percent containment. 

    "My mother's pearls are in there," Katie Dean said. 

    The Deans' neighbor, Wes Baker, also lost something precious to him in the fire. His cat, Tica, has yet to be found. 

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    Police said Frank Wetzel, 61, was pulled over after blowing through a stop sign. Police said he started fidgeting with something next to him, making the officer suspicious. He was allegedly later found with a machete and handgun.

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    "She's a Siamese, and she's really old and really sweet," he said. 

    The Clayton Fire, which investigators believe was sparked by suspected serial arsonist Damin Anthony Pashilk, has left another scar on a county that was still recovering from last year’s fire season. 

    Jessica Harrison said flames got within a stone’s throw from her house, but it wasn't burned down. 

    “I wish I could do something to help them,” Harrison said of neighbors who were less fortunate than her. “I’m thankful. I’m beyond thankful that I still have a house, especially since the day it started, the flames were literally out in that field — maybe 50 to 100 yards out.” 

    After realizing that fire crews had saved her home, Harrison also said, "We can't thank them enough. They're true heroes." 

    Meanwhile, Lake County animal control officials were feeding and providing water to ducks, chickens and a cat that had been left behind. They were told about a pig as well, but couldn't locate it initially, so hoped its family had taken it when they fled. 

    That was unlikely, though, seeing as area residents had five minutes to grab their belongings and rush to safety. 

    So Bertelli and her partner Nehemiah White checked the paperwork and then went back in to look for the pig. They found it cuddling up to a kids’ pool that they’d just refilled with water. 

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    “We checked and he’s OK now,” Bertelli said. 

    Animal control officials have been putting in long days while the Clayton Fire has ripped through Lake County, with many people working from 6 a.m. till 8 p.m. 

    The most unusual animal rescue so far was an emu, according to Bertelli. 

    “That was interesting,” she said, with a laugh. “We had the [American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] here to help us with that one. Thank goodness!”

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