WEED, Calif. (AP) — Kate Stonecypher awoke Monday and thought about wearing boots to work but decided on sneakers instead.
A day later, those sneakers are among her only possessions — along with a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. Nearly everything else she owned was consumed by a fast-moving wildfire that destroyed her house, along with 100 other structures in the small Northern California timber town of Weed.
Her losses mirrored those of dozens of other families who returned Tuesday to find their homes and cherished belongings reduced to ash and scorched metal.
"It's hard to deal with all at once, when you come here and see all this charred black" stuff, she said, peering through a burned outer wall. "In my head, I still see my couch and the living room floor. I just posted pictures of my girls just the other day playing blocks on the floor and watching 'Frozen.'"
Stonecypher grew up in Weed, where her parents ran a bakery. After high school, she moved to nearby Mount Shasta City, but a year ago came back, living in a house next to her parents. It backs up to the railroad tracks that run by the Roseburg Forest Products mill, across the street from Holy Family Catholic Church, which also burned to the ground.
On Monday, she was at work at an auto-parts store in Mount Shasta City when she heard about the fire that swept across a hillside on the southeastern side of town. It was windy that morning, and she had hoped the wind would bring some rain to ease the drought that has left forests all over California critically dry.
When she tried to go home Monday night, she was stopped by police while firefighters still fought the blaze.
On Tuesday, she walked through the devastation alone, taking pictures with her pink smartphone of the high school baseball field and other landmarks. She worked her way to her parents' house, which was still standing. A wooden bear sculpture survived. Her mom's dog, Apollonia, a black great dane, was glad to see her. So were the rabbits.
At her house, all that remained of three motorcycles, a piano and a chain saw were pieces of charred metal in the remnants of the garage. Her estranged husband's fixer-upper Trans Am was burned in the driveway, but Stonecypher said he got the rest of his stuff out because the two had separated.
Opening the dryer, there were some clothes inside that survived. Some of her 4-year-old daughter Autumn's clothes were intact in a closet. The quilt her mom had made for her 9-month old, Elise, looked burned out. Stonecypher was afraid to look in the blackened fridge, which had been filled with meat from a trip to the grocery store.
For now, Stonecypher and her two young daughters are staying at a friend's house in Mount Shasta City.
"When you're here, it's not even real to you. Then it sets in later," she said. "I hope I find something of what was in my bedroom besides just burned charcoal."