Several homes burned near Santa Margarita after the Hill Fire ripped through more than 1,500 acres. Other residents returned once the mandatory evacuation order was lifted at 7 p.m. Tuesday, anxious to see what firefighters had saved.
Christine Dietrich and her family unpacked their cars Tuesday evening, feeling thankful to be able to feed her donkey and goats and sleep in her own bed.
"You can't help but get a little emotional because this is your whole life, your home and your animals and your family. My parents live two doors down," Dietrich said.
Her family was told to leave Monday as their home was in the path of the Hill Fire.
"You have just a few minutes to decide what you can take and leave behind and the animals are a must," Dietrich said.
With three dogs and a horse in tow, the family had to leave their beloved goats and donkey behind. Dietrich decided to spray paint her phone number on the animals in case they were let loose.
In the last 24 hours, the family was left to wonder what they'd be coming home to after flames ripped through more than 1,500 acres of their neighborhood.
"It's felt like three days - emotionally and physically," Dietrich said.
Fire crews were still in the area working to contain the flames and mop up hot spots on Tuesday.
The family says they're grateful for all of the firefighters' hard work, salvaging what they can of the neighborhood.
"Obviously without them, we wouldn't have our home to come back to," Dietrich said.
The area is still closed to through traffic as lots of fire equipment is still on the roadways.
The Dietrich family plans to keep an emergency bag ready to go after the scary experience.