CZU wildfire victims vow to rebuild in Santa Cruz Mountains

Wildfires

BONNY DOON, Calif. (KRON) — Cal Fire officials announced this week that the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains is now 100 percent contained. A record-breaking wildfire season has left 3.6 million acres burned in California, and among the dozens of fires across the state, the CZU tragically stands out for the number of homes destroyed.

Residents whose homes were melted beyond recognition told KRON4 that they are not going anywhere despite the risk of wildfires in the mountains. They will rebuild their homes and start over stronger than ever.

Alison Gamel, a photographer for Santa Cruz Waves, lives on Braemoore Drive in Bonny Doon, where only 15 of 55 houses are still standing.

Alison Gamel shot this photograph of her destroyed home in Bonny Doon.

Gamel’s house was perched on top of a 1,000-foot-high mountain. It was leveled to ashes.

“I knew we were going down,” Gamel said.

“I saw flames off to the right, and I knew right away that it was moving fast, it was windy, and heading right for us. Within four hours it had jumped from far to very close and it just kept getting closer. Before you knew it, we were surrounded. It came from both sides,” Gamel said.

Alison Gamel

Gamel said she will rebuild her life in the same spot. Her remote mountain oasis is where she feels peace and at home.

“You can’t get any more peaceful and beautiful than up here. We don’t want to live anywhere else. I love it up here, I feel really lucky, and I never took it for granted. I would sit down every day on these little steps and just give thanks for where I live and the beauty that surrounds me. I felt really blessed and I still do. It will just take a while to get back,” she said.

Before the wildfire, Gamel said she didn’t often talk to her neighbors on Braemoore Drive. Now, neighbors are leaning on each other for support. Gamel said out of tragedy, the Bonny Doon community will rebuild stronger than ever.

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