As of Tuesday evening the Valley Fire was estimated at 17,565 acres and 11% contained while 20 homes laid destroyed in its path, according to Cal Fire San Diego.
One of those 20 homes belonged to the Bratcher family in Jamul. In an instant, the family lost their home, five cats and precious mementos including their son’s urn and a portrait of their late sister-in-law.
“She said, 'Mom, our house is on Twitter,' and it was engulfed in flames and I just kept thinking that's not our house, that's not our house, that's not our house,” Anabel Bratcher said, describing her and her daughter's reaction to the sight on social media.
Bratcher and her husband Dewey Bratcher weren't home Saturday night when the evacuation orders were given. The following day they found out their house was destroyed.
“It looked like the fire jumped that ridge and went for our house, missed the garage, obliterated everything around,” said Anabel Bratcher.
The couple was not allowed back up Montiel Truck Trail to evacuate their five cats.
“The only reason we keep trying to go up to the road is to see if we can get in and maybe one of our cats got out,” she said through tears.
The couple lived with Anabel Bratcher's mom, Lupe Hernandez, 77. Luckily, Hernandez wasn't at home that evening either.
“I just can’t imagine what she would've gone through if she would've gotten the evacuation notice and she’s there by herself trying to get all the cats out,” she said.
Anabel Bratcher said it's not about monetary value, but the sentimental value of the things they lost inside. In June, she lost her son and his urn was inside their home, along with a precious memory of her late sister-in-law.
“We had a special little portrait made of her and on the same mantel was my son,” she said.
Through this pain, the couple of 21 years is leaning on one another, and their community, like never before.
“On the flip side of that, what makes me cry, what fills my heart, is the kindness from friends and strangers,” Anabel Bratcher said.
Despite losing the home and the precious photos of loved ones, the couple manages to bring light and comfort to one another.
“It happened, OK. Damn it. I’m a Navy chief and it’s time to go to work and we’re going to rebuild and do whatever we can to go back to normalcy,” Dewey Bratcher said.
The family is now staying at a friend’s home, and their friends have created a fundraiser for them which has exceeded $40,000.
“That's been overwhelming,” Dewey Bratcher said.
The couple hopes the fire does not worsen or ravage anyone else's property because they do not want anyone else to go through the same pain.