After a fast-moving fire destroyed John Raifsnider’s home Thursday in Whispering Pines, he returned home to see what was left.
“Whew. My first impression so far is ‘wasteland,’” Raifsnider said.
Gone was his collection of more than 5,000 books, including some rare first editions. Even his car was reduced to a melted hulk of metal.
But Raifsnider was surprisingly composed as he stopped Friday to thank firefighters for saving what was most important: lives in the Whispering Pines neighborhood near Julian as well as 200 other homes.
He lived in the home surrounded by wildlife and privy to beautiful sunrises for nine years.
“It was a very large house. It had three levels,” he said. “It was very tall. It was up in the trees.”
Raifsnider recalled Friday how the flames swept up the canyon that fronts his property.
"The sound of it was a roaring sound, and it caused a wind, and the heat, you could feel if you stayed here too long, your skin would blister off,” he said.
Once he was alerted that Cal Fire was ordering an evacuation because of the Banner fire’s threat, Raifsnider managed to escape safely with his two pet cats, laptop, phone and iPad.
Other than that, all he had were the clothes on his back. He said that the fire taught him that physical possessions are not what’s most important in life.
"We're all hunkered down in our secure place you know. We try to protect our little world, but it's so precarious, because we all know, this could be anyone, any time,” he said.
Raifsnider has insurance on his house, though he’s not yet sure he’ll rebuild on his current property. Amid the destruction, he knows nature will recover – and he will, too.
"Seeds will begin shooting up from here, and I will be spouting somewhere myself," he said.
There will be a fundraiser for Raifsnider on July 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Nickel Beer Company in Julian at 1485 Hollow Glen Road.
The restaurant will serve food and beer, with proceeds going to help Raifsnider recover from the total loss of his home and almost all his possessions. For information, call (760) 765-2337.