Community pulling together amid wildfire destruction

The Bear Fire is the latest wildfire to destroy this part of Oroville, but this isn't the first time this neighborhood's resiliency has been tested before

Posted: Sep 13, 2020 9:14 PM
Updated: May 17, 2021 12:55 PM

OROVILLE, Calif. -- Hot spots continue burning throughout the community with many homes now fully destroyed. Yet, despite the status of their home impacted by the Bear Fire, many people in the community are more worried about their neighbors.

“We tried to do the best we can,” said Sandy Hansen, Oroville resident for more than 32 years.
She added, “My friend Norma, if she wouldn't have called or texted, me and Mike would be dead.”

“We went ahead and took off. Opened up all the gates so that everybody could try to get away, you know, all the animals,” said Husband Michael Hansen.

He paused for a second, holding back his tears.

“That's probably been the hardest thing. It's the animals,” said Michael.

Thousands of dollars spent on fire prevention, but that still couldn't save much of the Hansen household.

“Thought we had it, but the way this fire came through, there was no stopping it,” said Michael.

Consoling them was Margaret Gunderson.

Her home still stands, but it was a close call.

Portions of her property burned. Most of her neighbors lost their homes.

“The moment that I found out that my house made it was complete elation, and then that sinking feeling of everybody else that doesn't so it's like okay we have to do what we can do.”

This past week, Gunderson ran supplies to and from those who stayed, and to stranded animals.

“Animals are missing and suffering and hungry and right now that's kind of my priority,” said Gunderson.

Fires are still destroying, while smoke is still settling. But this rebuild starts with love for one another.

“When we had the fire three years ago, the Ponderosa Fire, we all worked together,” said Gunderson.

“That's why we're dumping all kinds of resources we can into the place to make sure everybody back there's taken care of. Margaret's going to look after my animals, make sure that they're fed and watered. That alone is worth any amount I can give,” said Michael.

And it ends with unity and perseverance.

“That’s what we do. We take care of each other. I'm sad my home is gone, but I’ll make it through this,” said Sandy.

Evacuees that can't get food and water to their animals should reach out to the North Valley Animal Disaster Group.

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It's a warmer and windier day for our area in the wake of the storm from this weekend. A Red Flag Warning continues for the valley through 8pm and for the Sierra through late Tuesday morning, with hotter weather returning.
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