Kevin Grist watches as an airplane drops fire retardant at the Hill Fire. (Photo courtesy Jonvieve Grist)
As crews continue to gain ground on the Hill Fire burning east of Santa Margarita, many residents who were evacuated are beginning to return home and see what's left of their properties.
Others, like the Grist family, never left. Instead, they stayed to fight the flames as the fire burned close to the family home off Parkhill and Stagecoach Canyon Road.
"This entire hill burned within five minutes," said Jonvieve Grist. "You kind of walked away and came back and it was already halfway up the hill."
Kevin Grist was headed home when he saw the flames.
"I just assumed it was a controlled burn. I thought it a bit odd in this sort of weather and then I carried on driving slowly a bit further and I saw a car completely ablaze," he said.
As soon as he got home, "We got our cars loaded up with sleeping bags, food, water."
But then the Grists and their neighbors jumped into action.
"We linked up all three hoses of the houses together so we had one really long hose and we started running it from house to house," said Jonvieve. "Thankfully, the air support came in literally just as the fire was coming up to the fences."
Neighbors across the canyon came over and watched the flames overtake their homes.
"You can kind of see a long structure there," Jonvieve pointed out. "That was a few trailers and some people up there and that's all gone."
"I wonder what, like, their life will be next with not really anywhere to live," said 9-year-old Kai Grist.
A war zone of smoke and flames mere yards from the Grist household.
"It was actually pretty crazy with everything going on all up in the sky. It felt like a nuclear bomb, sort of," Kai said.
While everyone is thankful the homes along Stagecoach Canyon Road are okay, fire officials do urge you to heed the first warning to evacuate instead of staying behind.