A 17-Year-Old Mendocino Girl Recounts How She and Friends Fled the Helena Fire in Trinity County

Fire and firetruck

[Crop of a photo by Laurie Haney]

17-year-old Roxie Johnson from Laytonville was visiting a friend near Helena in Trinity County today when she and her friend’s family had to flee a racing wildfire. The first sign of a problem was a trickle of smoke to the east, said Johnson. “About 6 p.m., the hills were starting to glow…We were getting texts from friends that we should evacuate,” she explained. “We weren’t really sure. [The fire] seemed like it had a long ways to come.”

They could see the fire not far way.

Eventually, a group including Johnson started getting ready to leave. Johnson said, “I packed up all my stuff and put it in my car…My mom was calling telling me to leave….It just didn’t seem real.” The group still was undecided.

“Then,” she said, “all of a sudden, there was a fire truck with a loud speaker telling us there was a mandatory evacuation.” The group started driving to Weaverville. “Flames were on the hillside right next to us…The visibility on the road started to get pretty gnarly.” In the town of Weaverville, Johnson said. “The sky was just blacked out. It was raining ash.”

Johnson’s friend’s dad and his friends “decided to stay and defend their land” at first but now, she said, “they think they are going to leave the property. It isn’t looking good…I think my friends’ house might be burning to the ground.”

 

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