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Recovering Burn Victim, Family Lose Their Home

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Rebecca Simmons, who was tragically burned in an accident in February, and her family are among those who lost their homes in the Pattison Fire.

Rebecca is still recovering from second and third degree burns that covered 28 percent of her body during a get together inside a friend´s tepee. Fumes from gas that was poured onto a campfire ignited in the air and caught Rebecca on fire.

As Rebecca watched the Pattison Fire come over the ridge behind her house Friday, she said, “Mommy please, please we´ve got to hurry.”

“I thought we were going to be trapped in there – that it was going to happen again, to all of us,” she said.

Rebecca´s mom, Laurie Simmons, didn´t think the fire would reach them so she took a shower and packed a small bag. Rebecca began packing a bag for her and her sister Kaitlyn. Meanwhile, the Sheriff´s Department came to the door telling Rebecca they had to evacuate. “Mom, they´re telling us we´ve got to leave now,” Rebecca yelled.

The two ran around grabbing things including their poodle Pattington. Kaitlyn´s cat Farva couldn´t be found and they had no way to take their goat with them so they opened its pen hoping it would escape the flames. All the while, Laurie thought, “We´ll be back later.”

The Simmons returned Saturday afternoon. “It´s nothing,” Laurie said. “It doesn´t even look like planet Earth,” Laurie said. “Our trees and shrubs look like gnarled black sticks. It´s like something out of a scary movie.”

The Simmons´ home was completely burned down to the foundation.

To Kaitlyn´s delight, Farva, the cat, survived the fire. It crawled out from underneath a burned car looking a little singed, but alive, Laurie said. The goat remains missing.

The Simmons rented half of the house from Debbie Dugger, who was in Sacramento for the Labor Day weekend and hadn´t returned at press time.

Dugger lost her last home on Haney Lane in Valley Springs to fire two years ago, Laurie said.

“I´m so worried about her driving up the driveway and seeing the devastation,” Laurie said. “The picture album that (Dugger) salvaged from her first house fire, charred and burned on the edges, is gone now,” Laurie said.

Sandy and Jess Repetti of Elk Grove donated their Valley Springs vacation home to the Simmons rent free. The Repettis drove up when they heard about the fire. They gave their number to a Valley Springs neighbor in case anyone needed help.

“As we were diving there, we said, ‘We´re so lucky that´s not our house that has all our belongings,´” Sandy Repetti said.

The Simmons were put in touch with the Repettis through Valley Springs Elementary School, which was set up as an evacuation center.

After meeting Laurie and her two daughters, Sandy Repetti said, “We have a teenage girl and we just really felt connected with them. We just felt terrible about it, especially after what (Rebecca) had been through n to see the fire coming toward her house. We felt for her very much.”

The Simmonses also are receiving help from the Red Cross, which gave them a $485 credit card of sorts to get clothes and food, Laurie said.

“The girls just had thongs, shorts and tops. That´s it,” Laurie said about her daughters. “We have to start over.”

Kaitlyn is a freshman at Calaveras High School. Rebecca is a senior at Gold Strike High School where she´s trying to make up credits for the time she missed recovering from her burns after the fire in February.

She´s going through steroid injections and laser surgery for scars on her face, neck, chest, stomach and arms.

Rebecca attends therapy and is taking medication to help recover memories, which she says, were lost as a result of medicine the hospital gave her.

“It causes conscious amnesia, so you forget,” she said. “When you get out and your body starts getting better, your imagination gets different memories. I had to be put on another medicine because I was thinking that someone was trying to kill me and someone was watching me.”

“I´ll have to go get some more (medicine),” Rebecca said. “It all got burned. I didn´t have any of my medicine.”

Finding the cat after the fire was somewhat therapeutic for Rebecca.

She told her mom, “We have to keep him forever. He´s like me. He´s been burned and he´s been through fire. But for an animal it must be worse because they don´t even know what´s been going on.”

Laurie is trying to keep her daughters in a good mood and looking on the bright side.

She tells them, “Well, we had to clean out the garage, but now we don´t. We needed to pull weeds, well, not now.”

“I think we´ve had enough tragedy in our lives to last us,” Laurie said.

She notes it´s the irreplaceable items that she´ll miss the most.

“All my kids´ stuff from when they were babies … everything they have is gone,” Laurie said. “All the money in the world can´t replace those things – the stories of your life.”

Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For moreCalaveras news, click: