As thousands continue to cope with the deadly wildfires in California, one man found a silver lining to the destruction in what he calls a “miracle” — finding his wife’s wedding ring among the rubble of their home.
Jake Olsen, a state Fish and Wildlife warden, was one of many emergency officials who had to evacuate his home in Paradise, Calif., when the Camp Fire broke out in the area.
In response, Olsen rushed to a retirement home nearby to evacuate patients, getting three people into his pickup truck while his partner rode under a fire blanket with a fourth person, the Associated Press reports.
On Saturday, he was allowed back to his home to survey the damage.
“I’m here just to see what’s left of my house and then my wife asked me to look for her wedding ring that she left behind,” Olsen said.
As he walked through the rubble of his home, he pointed out an area where he said there used to be a counter and a sink. According to the game warden, his wife told him she had left it in the bedroom.
His colleague, who was helping him sift through the rubble, started digging when they reached what used to be that room.
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“It’s just amazing. I just didn’t think that we were going to find it, but we had to try. And he (Olsen’s colleague) said: ‘Hey, here it is, man,’ so it’s pretty cool,” he said, holding up the ring. “It’s just a miracle.”
The ring appears to be inlaid with diamonds along the top, though soot from the fire disguised the colour of the band.
Upon finding it, Olsen said he called his wife to let her know, adding she couldn’t believe it when he told her the washer and dryer were also still standing.
Asked how he felt standing in the remains of his home, he could only express disbelief.
“You can’t understand it until you’re here,” he said. “Because you just have to… you can’t fathom it in your mind. It’s just so much to take in so… I don’t know.”
According to Olsen, much of his extended family has been impacted by the fire.
In addition to himself, his wife and their four children, his parents, in-laws, his wife’s grandfather, uncle and sister saw their homes consumed by the blaze.
All of them are currently living in one home.
“We have a church family, and they’ve provided a house for us,” he said. “There’s five households that are staying in the house together, and they’ve brought us clothes and food, and we’re good. We’re very lucky to have that family.”
He added he’s thankful his family is safe.
At least 23 people have died in the blazes currently consuming parts of northern California. Several bodies found earlier this week were located in or near burned-out cars, according to police.
Paradise has been devastated by the Camp Fire, with more than 6,700 homes and businesses destroyed, making it the most destructive wildfire in California history. With the death toll still able to rise, this wildfire could also become the deadliest.
According to the Butte County Sheriff’s Department, there are reports of 110 people still missing.
The Woolsey Fire, 800 kilometres south, is also burning in the foothills above Malibu and doubled in size overnight Saturday. The blaze has left more than 70,000 acres charred.
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All 13,000 residents of Malibu were told to leave on Friday, including celebrities, who were told to get out the following day.
Officials said on Saturday they are hoping a lull in winds will allow them to make progress, but firefighters have still been unable to build any containment lines around the fire.
Two people have been found dead in the Woolsey Fire zone, and at least 150 buildings have been burned.
—With files from Reuters and The Associated Press