Wall Fire evacuee returns to Butte County, finds most important asset intact

As firefighters keep a wildfire in Butte County at bay, many evacuees were allowed to return home.

Most found their homes still intact. Others, however, returned to find their home in ruins.

Since the wildfire ignited on Friday, more than 4,000 people were evacuated and 5,400 structures were threatened.

Cal Fire determined 99 structures have been damaged or destroyed in the Wall Fire. Of those, 41 were single family homes.

The Salerno Family’s home isn’t one of those 41. They returned to their home Tuesday, which was on an island in a sea of charred debris.

“The house is here, you know,” Margaret Salerno said. “It took a while to find that out, but the house is here.”

Salerno and her husband evacuated Saturday as the Wall Fire seemingly erupted from its quiet state.

Salerno believes they left with an hour to 30 minutes to spare as the blaze came over the hill and marched directly towards her home.

The adobe-style, one-story structure was built in 1986.

“My husband made the bricks from this property and built the house,” she said, believing the home’s structue is partly responsible for its ability to withstand the fire. “Truthfully, this kind of construction is much more fireproof.”

It’s the second major fire since 1990 that the home has withstood, Salerno said.
But, it wasn’t all good news for the Salerno Family.

The couple’s two passion projects suffered significant damage and destruction.

In the front of her home, only 40 of her 270 mandarin trees survived the flames.

“It’s mostly gone,” she said. “A few of the ones in the upper orchard are OK, but the other half of the upper orchard is gone and most of the lower orchard is gone.”

At the back of her property, the blaze raced toward the home from the rear, engulfing the garage and destroying their three MG sports cars.

“He had an MG when he was young,” Salerno said of her husband. “So, it’s his way of renewing his youth, I suppose.”

Though two of their passions suffered major blows, the couple’s most important asset stands as it had for more than 30 years.

“These were cars that maybe would’ve gotten worked on or sold some day. They had value, but they’re not something that I’m dying for,” she said. “But my house is an important thing — and I have it.”

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