Oak Fire: Fresno Fire Captain's family leans on faith to rebuild

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Monday, August 1, 2022
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Fresno Fire Captain Brian Downs typically faces off with flames. Now he's crossed fire lines to sift through what can be salvaged from a home he loved.

MARIPOSA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno Fire Captain Brian Downs typically faces off with flames. Now he's crossed fire lines to sift through what can be salvaged from a home he loved.

He said, "even as a trained firefighter, I was blown away by the reality."

That home is where he asked John and Sue Paris for their daughter, Yvonne's, hand in marriage.

The career firefighter of 15 years said, "the lord gives us our stuff, but he gives us family, and that's far more important."

John and Sue would have celebrated 36 years on Triangle Road, but on the first night after the Oak Fire erupted-- flames reduced their two story home to rubble.

They found out when a video was posted online.

Downs said, "you feel like you lost everything. As devastating as that was, it helped us go through that grieving process."

Homeowner John Paris added, "when we were leaving, there was a huge plume of smoke filled with Orange. I figured it was another evacuation, and eventually we'd get back into the home, but it's gone, and so we move on."

Leaning on their faith, John and Sue are comforted that flames can't take the memories made in that home.

John's wife Sue says, "the Lord is faithful, and my first thought when this happened was I have to keep my eyes on Jesus."

Known to have a dining set for every occasion, finding items of her wedding china served as a reminder of hope, as did a heart seen on a piece of charred debris.

Yvonne Downs said, "and that just reminds us of gods love he sees us even in hardship. "

"Those memories are still there. This is just stuff. These are just things. These things can be replaced. We're certainly grateful that they made it out safely, and we were able to be with them," said Downs.

There are still dozens of families waiting to return to these burn zones, but hazmat crews are evaluating each area, making sure it's safe to return. Reach out to the Mariposa County Health Department with any questions.

For the latest developments, photos and videos on the Oak Fire, click here.