As some Lake County residents return after the Pawnee Fire evacuations forced them to leave their homes, some are discovering heartbreaking damage.
Ron Prior, 54, was a new landowner on Doe Trail in Spring Valley.
Prior moved to the area with his father as a teen. On Saturday, he fled on his motorcycle when he noticed smoke.
He waited out the blaze at the unofficial evacuation site at Clearlake Oaks’ Moose Lodge.
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Prior got out with little more than his motorcycle and five chickens that he transported to safety in an ice cooler strapped to the back of the Harley-Davidson.
Prior returned to his property on Wednesday evening, to find his few belongings in ashes, including the deed to his land, which he said he got just days before the fire broke out.
He’s happy that his chickens, Dorothy, Blondie and Helens 1, 2 and 3, are alive but knows he has a long way to go to replace his other belongings.
Having recently bought the property, he was making plans to build a house and had gotten situated in a temporary shelter with a bed, tools, solar panels and water supply, all of which he said he lost.
“To see other people’s house burned down I feel really bad for them,” Prior said, reflecting on the damages to his neighbors' homes, “But I worked hard for the little bit of stuff that I have up here."
The Animal Coalition sent him home from the Moose Lodge with a large crate, which, Prior said, “the chickens love.”
He also got donations of a tent and food and a modest relief check of $125 from the Red Cross, he said, but is currently living with only the clothes that he took down the mountain.
Rebuilding his life will be a strain on his fixed Social Security income, which will include $300 property payments beginning in November, Prior said.