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Life after the Charlotte Fire, one year later

By By Todd Kunz, KIDK News Anchor
Published On: Jun 27 2013 09:18:40 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 27 2013 10:53:53 PM CDT

Life after the Charlotte Fire, one year later

BANNOCK COUNTY, Idaho -

Where were you one year ago, June 28, 2012? If you live along the southern bench of Pocatello, you know too well that Friday marks one year since the Charlotte Fire forced people to evacuate and 66 homes were destroyed.

Eyewitness News anchor Todd Kunz went back there to talk to the same man he talked to that night, who lost his family's home and has spent the last year rebuilding.

"It's all in the attitude. It really is. Life is wonderful. It really is. Even though I lost everything I ever owned, it's okay," said Efrain Velasquez.

His newly-built home replaces the one destroyed by the Charlotte Fire. He related two special stories of forgotten strangers who showed up to help. One was of a young lady that Efrain had taken wedding pictures for, years ago, free of charge. The other was of a young man whose family was fed by the Velasquez family in their home after his grandfather's funeral.

"It was almost like a labor of love really," said Velasquez.

They both returned to lend a hand.

"After looking back, I do remember, but you know, things like that come back. They come back to serve you. And that was a neat thing. I learned a lot there," he said.

But now there are reminders of a different sort. There stands a reminder next to the driveway of that night in June when many families and individuals had their entire familiar world destroyed.

"That little tree right there by the flagpole? I might just leave it there," he said.

"What are some of the things people are telling you as far as the last year and how it has transpired?" asked Kunz.

"Well, I think some of them are still struggling with the experience they went through. I think everybody, I guess, handles it differently. But I think all in all, I think they are very courageous," said Velasquez.

Using a DVD player, Kunz showed Velasquez their interview from the night he lost his home.

"Yeah, I did. I went and had to get my daughter out, so I had to sneak around the barricade that they had there. Uh, there are so many people that have poured out a lot of concern," Velasquez said during last year's interview.

"You see that from a year ago. Emotions? What comes flooding back?" asked Kunz.

"I think uh, I think Pocatello really supported us. I think everybody just came together and you know, picked up whatever differences they may have had about, I guess, life and forgot about theirs for awhile and helped someone else and that was us. It was a wonderful feeling to see the 2,000 plus that came a couple of days after or a week after it happened. It was very moving, very touching to see so many of them up here working just to help out the neighbor, you know, your fellow human being," said Velasquez.

"Yeah, I get that impression from you that it's still here?" said Kunz.

"Oh yeah," replied Velasquez.

"And as we look forward, you've got a lovely home here. Do you fear the same thing with the countryside here? There is still plenty of vegetation. It's still struggling to come back. Do you fear that happening again or do you look at cloudy skies like today and wonder about heavy rain showers?" asked Kunz

"Yeah, I would, uh, you know, I really feel that we'll be okay. We're taken care of. We'll be alright and I think we have to have a lot of faith and hope that things will turn out just fine. They have so far. We've been very, very blessed. So many tender mercies. We could spend hours. Our grandchildren are going to look at us and how we did through this time and I think it will help them, but not just maybe our grandchildren, but I think it will help others who look back at us and say, even though they went through a hard time, they stayed with a positive attitude. Life is wonderful. No one got hurt. What a miracle. To have 66 homes completely just wiped out and a lot of other structures, but no one got hurt. That was a miracle. I really do, I really believe that. And I think there are miracles every day up here. There are so many times that I've just gone, yeah!" said Velasquez.

Velasquez said he plans to write his stories down for later generations, so they're not forgotten.

With those 66 homes burned 1,038 acres.

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