MARIPOSA, Calif. (KGO) — The Oak Fire in Mariposa County has burned thousands of acres, and as firefighters move forward, some people are now receiving an official message that their homes have been lost.
“The sheriff’s department just called me today to verify that my house had burned down,” said Chris Van Leuven of Mariposa.
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Van Leuven grew up in Marin County but rented a house on the outskirts of Mariposa. He was cycling with friends on Friday, looked back and saw smoke.
“There was a fire close to where we were and it grew very quickly,” Van Leuven said. “Black smoke billowed into the sky right away, and I’ve never seen a fire like this.”
Van Leuven, an outdoor enthusiast and journalist, was able to collect his dog and some of his items from his home, thinking he would be right back for more.
That never happened as the fire escalated, authorities evacuated the area and he received disturbing news for the second time in a week.
“That wasn’t the saddest thing or news I’ve had this week. I caught an autoimmune disease this week that I heard about, so I cried a lot about it, then my house burned down. It was kind of a lot more than I could handle,” Van Leuven said.
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Van Leuven’s house and its owner’s house are two of at least 55 structures that were destroyed in the oak fire.
Kara Franklin of Richmond took photos showing the plume of smoke she saw on her way to her father-in-law’s home in Coarsegold, California. She says smoke and ash were a major problem there.
“We were walking out of our hotel room to the car and there was soot everywhere, like it was raining,” Franklin said.
But as bad as it all seems, Van Leuven and others we spoke with are hopeful.
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“You know, I’m sad, but I have my dog Fenster next to me and that makes me happy,” Van Leuven said.
Van Leuven’s friend Heidi Wirtz started a fundraising campaign. She shared Chris’ Venmo info: @ChrisVanLeuven on her Facebook page with a note that reads in part, “My dear friend Chris Van Leuven needs help! Chris just lost his home in the Mariposa Fire #oakfire. Not only was he displaced and lost a lot of his stuff, but he was also diagnosed with a pretty harmful autoimmune disease last week.”
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