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King grad's home burns in California wildfire

Posted at 11:22 PM, Sep 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-15 09:36:11-04

More than 3.3 million acres have burned and 33 people have died in the wildfires ravaging the west, with many more missing.

King High School graduate Julia Champine’s home was one of those claimed by the fire in Berry Creek, Calif. She moved there California six years ago.

She and her grandmother, Susan, lost everything on Tuesday in what is known as the North Complex Fire in the northern part of the state.

"We watched the Camp Fire happen two years ago, and we watched people gridlocked and burned alive in cars, so we were just trying to get our stuff in the car and out so that wouldn’t happen to us, so we left in like 20 minutes,” Champine said.

“But they had vehicles out there,” said Adrienne Truelove, Champine’s mother, who still lives in Corpus Christi. “Thank God, they just left, because otherwise, they wouldn't be here, honestly."

Champine and her fiancée took video as they evacuated, leaving in a rush.

"I really thought we were going to come back, so I wasn't grabbing anything," Champine said.

Champine and her grandmother have lived in Berry Creek, a town of 1,500 people in the mountains, for the last several years among hundreds of acres of greenery.

Their home is nothing but charred remains in a town which was nearly leveled.

"I grabbed a couple of things and I thought I was gonna be back,” Champine said. “I really did. It doesn’t feel real."

Susan grabbed some clothes, hoping she'd have a home to go back to.

"None of her pictures of us -- she had letters from my grandpa, who died, that were handwritten,” Champine said. “(She) didn't get any of it."

Champine and Truelove currently are staying in a hotel an hour-and-a-half away from Berry Creek. They’re not allowed to go back, yet, to get one last look at what is left.

"That's kind of my last step in California,” Champine said. “I just want to dig through to see if there's anything that made it. It still feels fake, even though they released a map saying everything is destroyed, it just doesn't feel real."

Champine said she and her grandmother plan to come back to Corpus Christi with Truelove.