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Family seeks refuge on Central Coast after wildfire destroys San - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Family seeks refuge on Central Coast after wildfire destroys Santa Rosa home

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Photos of Cliff De Graw's house before and after it was destroyed by fire. (Courtesy Cliff De Graw) Photos of Cliff De Graw's house before and after it was destroyed by fire. (Courtesy Cliff De Graw)

One family who lost everything in the Northern California fires has deep roots on the Central Coast.

Cliff De Graw, his wife, and their three kids are staying with Cliff's parents in Paso Robles for the week. De Graw grew up in Paso Robles and taught at several local high schools before moving to the Bay Area.

A fire destroyed his family's home in Santa Rosa and turned their lives upside down. The family learned through a text message on Monday what's become of their house:

"It's gone. As we're sitting there in the room together crying, trying to figure out... how to tell that to your kids?" said De Graw.


Photos of the De Graw family's house before and after it was destroyed by fire. (Courtesy Cliff De Graw)

It was 2 a.m. Sunday, amid blaring sirens and neighbors going door to door, when De Graw knew his family was in danger.

"Just scrambled to get our kids and didn't really think about what to take. You're just trying to get out," De Graw explained.

Nearby neighborhoods were completely incinerated.

"It looks like the pictures you see of World War II atomic bomb, Japan," De Graw said.

The family took refuge wherever they could for the night.

"The smoke was really thick, there was ash falling like snow everywhere, and there were cars lined up for miles," De Graw said.

By Monday evening, they'd made it to his childhood home in Paso Robles with not much more than the clothes on their back and the family cat.

"As it starts to sink in, we're just trying to figure out, what do we do? We're technically homeless now and literally have what's in the back of our car," De Graw said.

They're greeted by friends and family ready to help.

"My brother in Los Osos and his kids had left us some suitcases full of clothes and toys," De Graw said.

As the family of five works toward some normalcy, they're thankful for the love and support along the way.

"This is the first time I've had the perspective of going through something this traumatic. Just seeing the humanity and how much people care and how much people step up to help is amazing," De Graw said.

He says his family plans on staying in his parents' fifth-wheel trailer before moving into an apartment in Santa Rosa in November. No long-term plans have been made, but they do have fire insurance.

A GoFundMe page has been set up by Cliff's brother to help them replace everything that's been lost. If you're interested in donating, click here.

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