Creek Fire: Hearing from survivors three years later

After a 10-month investigation, forest officials announced the cause of the fire as "undetermined."

Tuesday, September 5, 2023
Creek Fire: Hearing from survivors three years later
It's been three years since the devastating Creek Fire burned nearly 400,000 acres and damaged or destroyed more than 900 homes and businesses.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It has been three years since the devastating Creek Fire destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses, racking up millions of dollars in damage.

On Monday, many are still struggling with the aftermath.

Sitting on the front porch of her new home in chairs that survived the Creek fire from her old home, this time of year is difficult for Gail Rogers as she relives what she went through three years ago.

"We watched that fire grow and grow and grow, and I started thinking, are we going to have to leave? We've left three or four times before in the 20 years we lived there," explained Rogers.

Having lived in the mountains for years, Gail and her family did have a plan of action, but luck was not on their side.

"We had bought a trailer, and we had all of our stuff that was really important, the wedding pictures, the albums and stuff in boxes with wheels in the garage, ready to go in the trailer if we ever had to evacuate. The only car that had the ball was the jeep, and it wasn't running," said Rogers.

Losing most of her treasured belongings three years later, Gail remembers the moment that she learned her home was gone.

"We had photographic evidence that our house was still there until the 11th of September when the fire went back on itself, and it took our house," explained Rogers.

Now, looking back, she holds onto the memories but is focused on appreciating the now in her new home, what she calls a blessing in disguise.

The home that she now lives in was being sought after by many. The previous homeowner learned of Gail's situation and, without hesitation, helped out a fellow officer.

Full interview with Tim Sarquis, executive producer of the ABC30 original documentary Mountain Strong: Surviving the Creek Fire.

"The husband did some praying, and he's ex-law enforcement, and through those prayers, he felt we needed it more than the other people who were willing to pay more," said Rogers.

Gail and her husband, a retired police officer, were able to relocate to Clovis and say at their age, they are happy on the valley floor, selling their land in Auberry to a new family who will create new memories and are already working on rebuilding.

"It's like a long sign. Okay, we're here, we can go on," added Rogers.

The advice that Gail wants viewers to take away from her story is not to take the little things in life for granted, as things can change at a moment's notice.

VIDEO: Mountain Strong: Surviving the Creek Fire

The new documentary "Mountain Strong: Surviving the Creek Fire" is a comprehensive look at one of the state's most significant natural disasters and how a community is coming together to build from the ashes.

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