‘There are just no words’: Oregon family returns home to find pile of ash

TALENT, Oregon: Tracy Koa, a high school teacher in Oregon, was in her classroom last Tuesday preparing for the first day of school: which would be online due to COVID-19: when her 13-year-old daughter called in alarm: A fire was coming, and they had to evacuate, now.

Koa raced home. From the driveway of her house in Talent, Oregon, she watched the cloud of smoke from the nearby wildfire turn to black from gray, a sign she knew meant homes were aflame. Within minutes, Koa, her partner David Tanksley and her daughter Seneca had packed their car with camping gear and their cat and joined a crawling line of traffic to evacuate.

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They never saw their house standing again.

It was one of hundreds in Jackson County, Oregon, which has a population of about 220,000, that were reduced to rubble this week by the Alameda Fire. At least ten people have been killed in Oregon, and the death toll is expected to rise as conflagrations rage across the US West.

READ: Search crews scour charred Oregon landscape, residents return to rubble as wildfires burn

READ: Smog blankets US West Coast as deadly wildfires rage

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Koa and Tanksley returned to Talent on Saturday with dread.

"We knew that it was gone," Koa said in a telephone interview on Sunday. "But then you pull up, and the devastation of just every home – you think of every family and every situation and every burned-down car, and there are just no words for it."

Tracy Koa reacts in gratitude as her partner David Tanksley finds a buddha statue belonging to their daughter, after their home was gutted by the Almeda fire in Talent, Oregon, U.S., September 12, 2020. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Thick smoke hung in the air over the blackened trees and the ground was littered with pieces of roof tiles and house foundations. In the pile of debris that was once their home, Tanksley dug out a small Buddha statue, surprisingly intact, that belonged to Koa's daughter since she was a baby. Koa clasped her hands in gratitude.

Some items had endured, although charred; the metal planter pot in the living room, the neighbors' red Adirondack chairs, a pile of blackened coins that had outlived a glass jar. Other precious possessions seemed to have evaporated, such as the crystal milk pitcher that belonged to Koa's grandparents, where she had placed roses just the other day, and the photos of her mother who died of bone cancer in June.

Tracy Koa and her partner David Tanksley survey the remains of their home gutted by the Almeda fire in Talent, Oregon, U.S., September 12, 2020. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

For Koa's family, like many others, the year had already been hellish because of the COVID-19 pandemic before the inferno arrivedRead More – Source