IDYLLWILD, Calif. - It's been almost one year since an arsonist started the Cranston Fire -- ultimately destroying over 13,000 acres, burning seven homes and impacting the lives of thousands.
News Channel 3's Madison Weil has covered the town of Idyllwild and its road to recovery since the beginning. She returned for the one year anniversary, speaking with evacuees still trying to get back on their feet.
“I got a text that we needed to evacuate at that point, I had already seen the ashes. We had about twenty minutes to pack up and get out," said Andrea Bond, one of seven to lose a home in the Cranston Fire.
Bond returned to her property with Madison Weil -- the burned remnants of her home and debris have since been cleared. Her lot is now empty.
“Where that foundation is right there...that would have been the floor," said Bond.
Still dealing with the aftermath and how to rebuild, she says she's been staying with friends and family. Bond says her backyard deck once looked out over the mountain.
“It’s not just about the grieving of the things that you lost and the things that you lost it’s just...it affects every aspect of life," said Bond.
When asked how she has been able to cope with the immense stress and loss of this year, Bond said, "I’m still processing it. My grandfathers typewriter that I had just inherited is now replaced with another typewriter and it’s just a placeholder. I think of him but now I also think of the person who replaced it for me.”
One year later, bright yellow sunflowers are seen popping up on her charred landscape. “I’m really happy they’re here," Bond said.
But the Cranston Fire wasn’t the only catastrophe to hit Idyllwild this year. Ever since the record-breaking Valentine’s Day storm wiped out parts of the 243 and 74, the town has struggled.
“I have never seen that amount of water since I lived here," said Don Put, resident of Idyllwild.
“What more is going to happen to this town...enough is enough, said Brian Parnell, the event coordinator for Idyllwild Strong.
“A lot of us have had to cut hours," said Paul White, resident of Idyllwild.
“Every business up here is family owned or like a mom and pop shop," said Eric Gentry, resident of Idyllwild.
However, the town has rallied together -- giving News Channel 3 a sneak peak of their second annual “Idyllwild Strong” event set for august 16-19th. The event will feature more than 100 bands, vendors and family-friendly activities. “It’s free...it’s all ages...Idyllwild is a very pet friendly town,” added Parnell.
Organizers are hoping the fundraising event will attract valley visitors -- encouraging them to take the 74 from Palm Desert, the only main artery which remains fully open.
From wine tasting wednesdays at Middle Ridge Winery, to the Idyllwild Brewpub that makes 21 local beers on site...to the dozens of shops and restaurants, local artists and musicians, Idyllwild has a lot to offer its visitors.
“They think the town disappeared but we’re still here," said Danielle Wampler, resident of Idyllwild.
“What I would love people to know is that they won’t just be giving...they’ll be receiving something in return. This place can have such a calming effect...a healing effect."
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