As It Happens

California family watches Facebook Live video and discovers their home burned to the ground

Destiny Higgins and her family learned their home had been burned to the ground after watching a Facebook Live video of their California hometown.

'When I saw it, I dropped my phone and I cried harder than I’ve ever cried,' says Destiny Higgins

Destiny Higgins, centre left, is pictured here with her family. (Submitted by Destiny Higgins)

 

 

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Destiny Higgins and her family had no idea what had become of their California home after they fled a deadly wildfire last week. But when they tuned into a Facebook Live video on Sunday, they learned it had been burned to the ground.  

A local trucker posted footage of himself driving door-to-door in Shasta, Calif., updating people on the status of their properties.

"All of my friends and family got on the video and we were all watching and waiting for them to hit our address," Higgins, a 35-year-old cosmetologist, told As It Happens guest host Piya Chattopadhyay. 

"I'm not an overly emotional human being, but when I saw it, I dropped my phone and I cried harder than I've ever cried because it was completely obliterated — just gone, flattened."

This still from Dan Ryant's Facebook Live video shows what's left of Higgins' home. (Dan Ryant/Facebook )

 

Before they saw their gutted home, the family spotted their next-door neighbour's property on the video — untouched by the flames. 

"Once he got up and over the hill, we saw all the trees were burned and we knew we lost the house," Higgins said. 

A fire the size of Denver 

Their home is one of more than 700 destroyed in what's being called the Carr Fire.

It was sparked last week by a car with mechanical problems about 16 kilometres west of Redding. It doubled in size over the weekend, charring an area the size of Denver and forcing 38,000 people to flee their homes.

It is the deadliest of the 90 wildfires currently burning across the United States.

Six people have been killed, including two firefighters and three members of the same family. 

A burning home is reflected in a pool during the Carr fire in Redding on Friday. (Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
 
A sign is seen posted at a burned residence during the Carr fire in Redding. (Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

On Thursday, the blaze swept through the historic Gold Rush town of Shasta and nearby Keswick.

Higgins and her family got out of Shasta just in the nick of time. She left with her two children and their father overnight Wednesday when she saw flames approaching.

"I made the decision, and five minutes later we were on the highway," she said. 

They grabbed some clothes, paperwork and a family heirloom ring, and drove to her boyfriend's house in an area where they're safe in Redding.

All that's left of her family's home is the foundation, the chimney and a Tin Man wood chime that her step-father made.

Her 12-year-old daughter, who she describes as "a really strong kid," is handling the news fairly well. But her 10-year-old son, who has autism, is struggling to understand the gravity of the situation.

"I don't think he fully grasps the concept of what happened yet," she said. "I don't think he's able to process it yet."

What's next 

Higgins, meanwhile, is trying to figure out her next move. 

"We've got to figure out where to go and what to do from here," she said.

The house, she said, is uninsured because of a previous crack in the foundation that she couldn't afford to fix.

This is all that's left of Higgins' home after the Carr fire swept through the California town of Shasta. (Dan Ryant/Facebook )

She's the sole breadwinner of the family, she said, and she acts as a caregiver for her ex-husband, who suffered two debilitating strokes last year.

"We got through that together, and we'll get through this together."

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Reuters and Associated Press. Produced by Katie Geleff. 

 

 

 

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