SQUIRREL VALLEY, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — For the first time since the Erskine Fire tore through the Lake Isabella area, Joe and Leslie Wilson were able to return to their home on Tuesday.
"We didn't expect to come back to see our home ever again," said Leslie.
The Wilson's escape from Squirrel Valley was captured on video by their daughter who posted it to Youtube.
Eyewitness News first aired the dramatic video on Sunday, but did not know the status of their home.
Viewing it Tuesday, it was clear the house survived, though a section of their property did get singed.
Joe said a friend had told them their home was intact before they actually saw it. Still, he had to see to believe.
"It was just a whole other world of emotion. I mean to know it intellectually is one thing and to see it and feel it was a whole different ball game."
The two said they were grateful to have their home, but were shocked by the devastation around them.
They mentioned another couple they knew, whose home also survived. Coincidentally, I had interviewed the woman the day of the fire as she watched the hills near her home burn.
The Wilson's took me to their home up Piute Hill Road. Sitting in the midst of a charred black hillside, their yellow and white home stood fully intact.
"I feel so blessed," said Valerie Minoux. The last time I had seen Valerie was on Thursday night when the fire was in full force. At the time, she had evacuated but could not get in touch with her husband who had stayed behind to protect their home.
Thankfully, her husband and their horses all survived.. Their power is still out, but they have a generator to power some of their basic appliances.
But they don't pretend life is normal.
"I haven't slept for days," said her husband Steve, who has been constantly running around helping neighbors secure what's left of their properties.
"We just are trying to go around and do good and help others and be of service during this hard time," added Valerie, "because there's a lot of people who don't have someone else to help them."
From their backyard, the view of the valley below shows the harsh reality: swaths of black with pockets of green trees and houses.
"Homes were picked among the neighborhood. Some would fall and others would stay," said Valerie, describing the fire as if it had intentions.
Her husband attributes it to the defensible space he has spent months clearing. But they both acknowledge, they were spared.
"We're so grateful."