Hundreds of people living near Julian felt a big sense of relief Thursday night they were allowed to return to their homes after a devastating wildfire.
Hours earlier, as Cal Fire crews scrambled to save homes from the fast-moving Banner Fire, all they could do was watch and wait.
“Look your house and your trees are there, my house, well I don’t know it’s only the other side,” Maria Simes said to her neighbor.
When she was finally able to go closer she was amazed.
“Unbelievable. Unbelievable,” Simes said.
She and her husband couldn’t believe what they were seeing. The looked in disbelief as they realized their home had survived a 217-acre fire that destroyed everything around it.
“I just wanted to get over here because they said it’s there but I was like how can it be there, look everything else is gone,” said Simes.
The charred trees and grass around the home showed just how close flames got to their home.
But it’s the vacant and now unrecognizable house, that was still smoldering, that puts it all into perspective.
“You can see. It came close. If you look around,” Simes said.
It was the same story for Carl Swepston whose home stands between two homes that were reduced to rubble.
“That’s a steep bank there and the fire would have come right up there because that house burned right there," Swepston told NBC 7 Thursday
He credits having defensible space around the home for helping his home survive.
“Just by having clearance, having cleared all this out of the way, the weeds and dry brush and everything else is what saved the house,” said Swepston.
No word on the cause of the fire.
The fire is 40 percent contained, Cal Fire officials said, with two homes and 1 outbuilding lost.
Though firefighters have a good handle on the fire, officials have canceled the Fourth of July parade scheduled Friday.
Fire officials say they want to keep the roads clear in case the fire sparks again and they need to evacuate.