SALT LAKE CITY — A woman who left Santa Rosa, California before wildfires destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses was watching Wednesday from Utah as the flames inched closer to her neighborhood.
Jeanne Funk and her husband, Elliot, arrived in Salt Lake City Saturday to watch their grandkids, house-sit and visit friends, but they learned Tuesday their own house and others around it were under an evacuation order.
“If the fire keeps going the way it’s going, they could be burned,” Funk said Wednesday evening, as one fire burned about a half mile from their street. “It’s really scary when the fire is coming so close to our home.”
Fires across northern California had burned more than 3,500 homes and businesses and had led to 23 deaths as of Wednesday night.
“It’s hard to even imagine what’s happened there,” Funk said.
Funk said she tried to keep up-to-date with the latest news every hour and she watched the movement of the fires in Santa Rosa on the latest maps.
“It’s hard not to be there,” she said. “It’s hard not to be able to choose the things that mean the most to us.”
Funk said her neighbors were able to remove some of her computers, family photos and important documents Tuesday.
Late Wednesday night, Funk said in a text that firefighters successfully back-lit a fire, which kept the approaching wildfire away from her neighborhood for the time being.
“I can’t begin to tell you how thankful we are,” she said in the text.
Funk said watching her grandchildren turned out to be a much-needed escape from the events at home.
“It’s been the greatest thing, because there’s no way I can break down emotionally in front of these kids,” Funk said. “It’s just devastating at home.”