Former Local Man Loses Home to Lake County Blaze Even as He Fought It Elsewhere


The Middletown sign burns during the Valley Fire. [Photo used with permission from Caltrans.]

A South Fork High School graduate who lived here as recently as June lost his home in the Lake County Fire this weekend while he was fighting it in another area. Saturday, Paul Duncan, a Cal Fire Battalion Chief, was relaxing on his day off with his wife who also works for the same agency when reports of the inferno came rolling in. Duncan immediately responded and began fighting the fire.

Then, his wife who was recuperating from back surgery called. The fire was threatening his home and they needed to get out.

Terri Klemetson from KMUD interviewed a Cal Fire spokesperson about what happened.

In addition, the Cal Fire release below talks about Duncan and some of the other eight firefighters who have lost homes this week.

Press release from Cal Fire:

CAL FIRE Local 2881, representing the 6,500 firefighters of CAL FIRE, is making emergency donations to the families of eight firefighters who have lost their homes in the past several days.
“We are giving our firefighters some emergency spending money since so many of them have lost almost everything they owned,” said Mike Lopez, President of CAL FIRE Local 2881. “We are also hearing this afternoon that two or three other firefighters may have lost their homes, too.”
Two of the stories:
Paul Duncan, 46, Battalion Chief with CAL FIRE, has been working fires for CAL FIRE for 14 years and has been on fire lines since he was 18.  Paul was on his day off when he responded to a fire in the town of Cobb, about twenty miles from his home.
He left behind his wife, who was recovering from back surgery just the day before and two daughters, aged 17 and 15.
He received a panic call from his family that a fire was approaching their home. Paul was able to talk to his wife and daughters as they drove through flames and burning landscape. 
Their four-bedroom and three-bath house burned to the ground. The Duncan family lost everything except some clothes, paper work and a computer. A World War I souvenir from his grandfather, a 1911 Colt 45, is also gone forever.
“I would have gone to Cobb even if I’d known the outcome at my own home,” Duncan said. “I am a firefighter because I think I can make a change when times are tough and service to the community matters … of course, I would have loaded up my truck with more things and gotten my family out of there sooner.
“There have been a lot of tears, a lot of hugs and important family time since the loss,” Duncan said.
Robert Taylor, 24, Firefighter I, has been with CAL FIRE for two years. He works out of the Kelsey-Cobb Station in Lake County, but he was fighting the fire in Butte County – on this assignment for a day-and-a-half.
He did not have cell coverage. The incident commander said he’d heard that the fire was intense in Lake County and that structures were being lost.
Once Robert got cell coverage again he accessed the calls from his mother three hours late. His family was being evacuated and she wanted instructions on what to do. By the time Robert reached her she’d been evacuated to Middletown High School and they were being evacuated again to the Calistoga Evacuation Center at the fairgrounds.
His mom said she was sure the house was a loss.
“I was put on a new engine when I returned to Kelsey–Cobb,” Robert said. “I eventually came across my neighborhood and all of the houses in the neighborhood, including mine, were gone. We lived in that house since I was in the third grade. We lost everything. My family got out –mom, dad and my little brother (17). They saved some clothes and pictures and heirlooms from grandma.
“In all honesty, I haven’t had time to think about the house,” Taylor said.  “I am still in the help-others mode. If I can prevent this happening to other people then I will. I am still in structure defense. I’m afraid that if I slowed down and thought about the loss it would eat me up. I am staying strong for the family.”
Taylor is ready to continue fighting fires. “I am hearing about other firefighters who have lost their homes, too. The fire doesn’t recognize who owns the homes. It just burns. We are at the mercy of the fires.”


  • Impossible to imagine what it would be like to lose your house to fire.

  • So sorry to hear this. Best wishes in recovery from this.

  • Paul used to be the HUU ECC Chief here in Fortuna. He transfered to LNU last spring. Here is a GoFundMe page set up on his behalf.

  • It never ceases to impress me how totally dedicated and community-minded firefighters are, it is just humbling to witness. When you thank them for the work, they simply shrug and say, “It’s what we do”.

  • My heart goes out to you all.True Hero’s thru and thru all of you.Im so sorry for all you lost.Greatful you got out alive.Never seen a fire move that fast.un-real.God Bless you all be safe and hug each other tight

  • Heartbreaking! I hope the media sites do a perpetual summary of fundraisers for our firefighters, & newly homeless.

  • Not sure it’s the same kids I remember on Fruitlyn Ridge growing up I do either way feel sorry for Paul and his family to have to go through this .Thank you and wishing them well here.

    • Yes, this is Paul from Fruitland Ridge they are speaking of…a childhood friend and neighbor, my son, Jay Fulk, a Gulf War Vet, also lost his home and acreage. So sad for so many.

  • I can’t say it enough, firefighters are beyond epic!!! So sorry for those that lost their homes and suffered injuries. Their in my prayers and praying that everyone else is safe!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *