Doris Solock put a lifetime of memories in storage when she was suddenly evicted from her Citrus Heights residence four years ago.
Now those memories are lost after a fire swept through the Load-N-Lock Storage facility in Rancho Cordova two weeks ago.
Chief among them: a box of baby pictures of her son.
“I had a box ready for him,” Solock said as she took a mental inventory of the potential damage days after the July 24 blaze.
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The week before the fire at the storage unit on the 11200 block of Trade Center Drive, she had traveled to Washington to visit her 48-year-old son and had forgotten the box.
The fire, which broke out in the unit next to Solock’s, burned six units and caused smoke damage to several others.
Solock said she hadn’t planned to be a long-term renter at the storage facility, but her circumstances were turned upside down when she lost her 2,400-square-foot Vacaville home seven years ago.
After separating from her husband and losing her home, Solock said, she was diagnosed with polycythemia vera, an incurable blood cancer where red blood cells are overproduced.
“I’m not a homeless person but I’ve lost a lot,” Solock said. Having shuttled between staying with friends and temporary subletting, Solock rents a room in Vacaville and relies on Social Security while trying to supplement her income by doing a “couple little jobs” when she can. Solock has lived in and around Vacaville since 1979, she said.
“it’s been a long journey,” Solock said. “But I’m not angry or mad with anybody.”
As Solock talked about her journey, she said she was reminded of the belongings that were tucked away in the 5-foot by 10-foot unit that she scrambled to secure when she was evicted three years ago from the Citrus Heights residence she was temporarily renting.
“I had these seashells.” said Solock, whose name, Doris, means “gift of the sea.” She had a lifelong collection stemming from family vacations to the beach.
Over the years Solock had collected shells from travels around the world, including Belize, Australia and India. She remembers one particularly special souvenir that she bought while working as a missionary in 1999 in Puri, India. Her sister also gave her precious shells that were in her collection, Solock said.
There were also her Bible college books and one of the decorative baskets that had adorned her former custom home, which her daughter spotted on the news coverage of the blaze.
“I’m not even angry over this, I’m just in shock,” Solock said.
She went to see her unit a week after the fire, which happened to be her 67th birthday. She could only look from a distance, she said, due to the ongoing fire department investigation, but she had spotted several treasured belonging in the ashes, including the basket.
“Seeing the basket gave me just a little ray of hope,” said Solock, who remembered that she was able to stop crying for a few hours after that.
For two days this week, Solock returned to sift through the debris, which she said took a toll on her health.
“I am so thankful that I found a few treasures,” Solock said. Although much of her furniture and her beloved Christmas decorations were destroyed, the family’s nativity set – packed in Styrofoam – survived almost intact. “Only one donkey was broken.”
One more blessing was in the rubble: “I found my son’s baby book,” Solock said, coughing.
Although wet, the photo album was intact, and Solock hopes that the restoration service a friend provided for her will be able to revive the photos.
She’ll have to take legal action, she said, but wants to remember and remind others, “You can survive.”
Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District Capt. Chris Vestal said the investigation has concluded, but the cause of the fire could not be determined.
“When you have such a major disaster, when you find some little treasure that means something to you, it could mean nothing to anyone else, that was really important to me,” Solock said.