Advertisement
California

Scenes of destruction and salvation in path of raging Cranston fire

3054614_ME_0726_Cranston_Fire_IK
Steve and Suzanne Coffer have lived in their current Idyllwild home for 24 years. On Thursday morning, they found it covered in retardant, but safe.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Just down from the Coffers’ Deer Foot Lane, smoke and ash lightly billowed off a few destroyed homes.

A large rock fireplace and the foundation were all that remained of one house. The former home was filled with scorched appliances, a burned bathtub and twists of metal pipe.

A handlaid rock path outlining the home remained intact while clay pots sat nearby with plants burned down to their stem.

A birdbath sat in the yard, water still inside. Next door, another destroyed house burned. Its wooden steps led down into what was once a home, now turned into burnt wood and ash, a green melted water hose still hanging on the side of the house.

Advertisement

The sound of crackling wood, fire trucks, airplanes, helicopters and chirping birds filled the air. Water from fire trucks streamed down the road.

The wooden homes across the street, with red and green trim, remained pristine, somehow untouched by fire or retardant.

This was a scene of destruction as the Cranston fire swept through.

The fire was deliberately set, authorities say, by a 32-year-old Temecula man Wednesday afternoon. The fire has since destroyed five homes and caused thousands to flee. Chewing through grass and brush that have been baked dry by a heat wave, the wildfire has scorched 4,700 acres and is only 5% contained.

Advertisement

A towering pyrocumulus cloud has formed over the fire area, which will probably cause significant challenges for firefighters, said Capt. Scott Visyak of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Clouds from the pyrocumulus have already started collapsing onto themselves, which will cause the weather to change, Visyak said.

For some residents, it was a night of wondering if their homes were still standing.

Steve Coffer was having lunch in Mountain Center at noon Wednesday when he saw the fire. He walked out of Mountain Center Cafe and said to his wife, Suzanne, “We’re going home, honey.” The couple hurried back to pack their cars and grab their cat Kit Kat. Before leaving, Steve Coffer walked down Deer Foot Lane to a nearby ledge where he saw flames building throughout the large canyon behind the neighborhood.

Looking down, he realized the fire had made its way through a fire break. That’s when he decided it was time to go. The Coffers, cat in tow, slept in their car at the Catholic church in Idyllwild Wednesday night.

Coffer, a 40-year resident of Idyllwild, moved to the small town because he wanted to live in the mountains after growing up in San Diego.

Together, he and Suzanne have built a home complete with a garden, some of which they willingly “donate” to the wildlife. On Thursday afternoon, that home and garden were covered in pink fire retardant.

Nearby, a few neighbors lost their homes. Coffer was less concerned about how he would remove all of the retardant and more interested in praising the firefighters, including the air assault team, which he said arrived substantially faster than any previous fire, including the Mountain fire.

The Coffers came back to their home at 6 a.m. Thursday to find it covered in retardant, but safe. “It’s what you make of things,” Coffer said.

Advertisement


Newsletter
Get our Essential California newsletter
Advertisement