Year after Erskine Fire tore their lives apart, survivors are adapting to new normal

Erskine Fire survivors continue the long road to recovery one year after the blaze tore through the Kern River Valley. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

One year after the Erskine Fire ripped through the Kern River Valley, survivors are starting to settle into their new normal.

Although there is still a long way to go, many in the community said it feels nice to finally be moving forward.

Cathy Berlin was one of the 27 people who qualified to get a manufactured housing unit.

All of the MHUs are now in place, and families have moved in.

"We moved in on May 17th," Berlin said. "It was a wonderful day. It was good to move in."

Berlin said when she was handed the keys and walked in, "It felt like home."

The MHU is on the same land where her home went down in flames.

"It's tough coming back to the neighborhood, because you see so many lots that are for sale that won't be coming back, but then the people that have come back, I'm glad to see them," she said.

The Kern Valley Long Term Recovery Group said there is still work to do in the recovery process, but it is now moving into the rebuilding phase.

The group tells Eyewitness News they it's excited to announce it will be building one home with some of the money from the Erskine Fire Fund.

Mennonite Disaster Service is the organization that will be helping to build the framed home.

The Long Term Recovery Group said it picked the family through a vetting process and will be building for the most vulnerable in the community.

"The Mennonites, they really want to build a home for people who have no other way to recover," said Sheri Bryant, volunteer with the Kern Valley Long Term Recovery Group.

The goal is to start building in August.

Bryant said up until this point, the group has been helping survivors by providing washers and driers, getting what people need for day-to-day living and helping some with rent, among a list of things.

"(The money) has gone in a lot of directions," she said.

She said the group is far from finished and hopes the community supports them in doing more.

"We are not ready to stop, we need to fundraise and try to get as many homes built, and get them some resemblance of normal," Bryant said.

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