The 2018 and 2020 wildfires in California were the deadliest and most destructive in the state's history. Vulnerable families lost their homes, their livelihoods, and their hopes for the future. Working closely with long-time partners and volunteers, International Relief Teams is rebuilding homes for families recovering from wildfire disasters at two sites in Northern California, Paradise, and Happy Camp.
In September 2022, International Relief Teams deployed nineteen volunteers from across the United States to aid in there building of four homes. Ten volunteers were able to frame the walls for one home in Paradise and nine volunteers worked on three different houses in Happy Camp. One of those was the home of Kenny and Donna McCulley.
What does it mean when you lose the only home you have ever known?
For Kenny and Donna, it meant losing 150 years’ worth of precious family photos, memories, and keepsakes. It meant losing a place to come to at the end of a hard day.
“There was nothing left,” Kenny shared. “Just a stinking, smoking pile of rubble.”
On the day of the fire, Kenny made sure that Donna, their basset hounds and cats were safe before he returned to their home to release the animals that were trapped in their barn. While he reached the property intime, he did stay with his donkey, Roy, till the last moments of his life. “His eyes had been badly burnt. He wouldn’t have survived. We had Roy since he was a little thing. It was hard losing him.” Though the rest of the animals were released, to this day, Kenny does not know if they survived the fire.
In the weeks after the Slater Fire in 2020, Kenny and Donna only had contact over the phone. While Donna temporarily stayed with a local church group and some family friend’s, Kenny spent weeks trying to find a shelter that allowed them to be together.