ROANOKE – It's been a little over a month since the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California's recorded history.
The Camp Fire burned more than 153 acres, and destroyed nearly 14,000 homes. Most who lived in Paradise are waiting to see what's left of their home.
Others, are trying to move forward. Steven and Karen Hetherington have made the move to Roanoke.
The West Coast natives recently purchased a home in Paradise, California they thought they would spend the rest of their lives in. Steven is retired, and Karen, who worked as a social worker only has a few years left until she can retire. They have spent the past eight months renovating their Paradise home, making it just the way they wanted it.
Like so many others, that all changed very quickly one morning when the Camp Fire ravaged their neighborhood. They soon found themselves running from the neighborhood that was once their home, escaping Paradise only moments after they realized it was on fire.
"It happened really fast. Really fast. And when we were trying to get out it was utter chaos,” Karen Hetherington said.
"You're sitting in your vehicle. It's pitch black. There is ash coming down on you. You are creeping forward at a very slow rate. I'm thinking, wow, you're 73 and this is probably going to be where my life is going to stop,” Steven Hetherington said.
The Hetherington’s woke up to what they thought was a beautiful, color-filled sunrise.
Seemingly, a sky filled with weather clouds quickly changed to darkness.
But those colors were actually a quickly approaching fire spreading closer to their home.
By the time Steven and Karen realized what was happening, they only had a few minutes to pack and leave home. They were able to grab one of their cats. Unable to find their second cat, they left food and water for it when it returned. At the time, they didn’t realize they would never be returning to their home.
“It was pretty scary. It was definitely an experience I don't want to relive for sure,” Karen said. “It was the most scared I’ve ever been in my life,” Steven said.
Because of how toxic Paradise is right now, they haven't been allowed to return. Although they haven't seen it with their own eyes, they found a photo of their home. It’s gone. Only remnants of what was remain.
In the coming weeks they'll have an opportunity to see it firsthand.
"I think we are going to go for closure,” Karen said. “We want to see it and see if we can find some things to keep to remember."
For now they are staying with Karen’s parents. Her sister has lived in the Roanoke Valley for more than a decade. The Hetherington’s are in the process of purchasing a home in Roanoke, and say they are excited to begin a new chapter in their life in the Roanoke Valley.