1 Year Later: Woman who lost cabin dedicated to son in Creek Fire aims to rebuild

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- No one would blame Jeannie Ingels if she didn't rebuild the Shaver Lake cabin that was dedicated to her soldier son after it burned down in the Creek Fire.

The loss of the mountain getaway full of memories brought her back to the devastation of losing her son while he was serving in the Army in 2003.

"I lost everything," she said. "All my faith, any kind of goodness was just turned to dark at one time. I got it back in this place and I want to see it come back again."

When we first met Jeannie, she shared pictures of the cabin in the Dogwood community that helped her family heal, as well as other servicemembers' families who left heartfelt drawings of gratitude.

Military momentos of Army PFC Raymond Mendoza, a Clovis East graduate, was displayed in the cabin, named Legacy Point.

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It all became ash.

"The greatest loss is that I no longer have his dog tags," Ingels said.

But a year later, Jeannie meets with her contractor at the cleared site to start over.

One of Jeannie's first priorities is to restore the sign that will welcome visitors to the new Legacy Point.

Jeannie feels fortunate she and most of her neighbors are able to rebuild.

For others, it's financially and emotionally, too difficult. But the regrowth in the forest is renewing faith.

VIDEO: Mountain Strong: Surviving the Creek Fire
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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.



For people like Jeannie, rebuilding isn't something they want to do. It's something they have to do because the meaning of being on the mountain burns far brighter than any fire.

"I want my grandchildren to know the life of mountains," she said.

Maybe one of Jeannie's children is looking down and guiding her search for solace.

Months after the fire, as friends and family were sifting through the debris, familiar shapes started to surface -- Ray's commendation medal, his casket key and his dog tags.

Jeannie will soon receive re-issued dog tags from the Army, which she'll display next to the charred ones found in the ashes.

"Life is going to happen again, it's going to be beautiful again," she said. "The mountain will have that majestic, peaceful serenity it always had. We just have to build it back."

Jeannie plans to re-design the cabin to accommodate more guests so military families can bring more of their loved ones, or perhaps multiple families can stay in the Shaver Lake retreat.

She believes in the healing power of the mountain, guided by the spirit of her soldier son.
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shaver lakecreek fire
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