JULIAN, Calif. (KGTV) - A couple is sharing their harrowing story after a narrow escape from the Southern Fire as it began burning their home.
Around 4 p.m. Saturday, Eddie Valenzuela and his girlfriend Priscilla Flores saw the fire's first billows of smoke about two miles from their home on Great Southern Overland Stage Route.
Strong winds were pushing the flames.
“Looked liked a torch just went off and just started lighting up the whole field. Next thing we knew, it started burning the home behind us,” said Flores.
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The fire needed just five minutes to reach that home, about a mile from the couple’s rented home.
“Scared,” said Flores.
“No time to feel anything,” said Valenzuela.
Flores packed and gathered the children — ages 10, 5, and 1 — while Valenzuela and his brother tried to wet down the property.
About five minutes later, when fire crews knocked at their door, they raced out with their kids and one piece of luggage. As they left, they saw their home catch fire.
“To see it fall in front of your eyes … heartbroken,” said Valenzuela.
Also heartbreaking: leaving their two horses. Valenzuela’s mother and other brother cut open the fence, but in a video obtained by ABC 10News, the horses are seen behind the fence and not far from the home, as the home burned.
The family drove to safety, eventually learning what they already knew. Their home was destroyed. Countless family heirlooms and thousands of photos were gone.
"My oldest son is autistic and he likes to be reminded he was a baby once. I can’t show my son those photos anymore when he’s older. It’s hard,” said a tearful Flores.
The couple didn't have renters insurance and now faces a long road to recovery. But they will start on that path with their horses, discovered safe and without a scratch, on the property.
“It’s pretty miraculous when you think about it. The way it burned. You still see your horses standing there. it’s crazy,” said Valenzuela.
The couple wants to thank all the neighbors and strangers who have donated items, like clothes and diapers.
“So many people in this small town have had our back. It’s a long list. Thank you so much,” said Valenzuela.
Several GoFundMe campaigns have been set up to help them in their recovery: