By Mimi Teller, Red Cross volunteer
Stephanie Meredith and Kristi Lewton purchased their Juniper Hill house only four months before the Bobcat Fire burned it down, along with what little personal history and memories their new home held.
Once it was safe to return home, Stephanie and Kristi did. The Red Cross provided them with snacks, water and cleaning supplies, as well as a shovel, rake and sifter to search for lost treasures in the remains of their home.
While they had time to remove most valuables when they evacuated, Stephanie left behind her purchased set of vintage cast iron skillets – a Griswold Erie skillet circa 1890 and a Victor pan circa 1920. Stephanie knew the heat from a house fire could reach more than 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, but she never imagined it would actually reach the 2,060 degrees needed to affect her cast iron skillets, the closest things to family heirlooms the home held.
“I didn’t have any of my own family heirlooms” Stephanie said. “I enjoy cooking. Collecting these pans felt like I had a piece of someone’s family history.” To Stephanie’s surprise and regret, she unearthed one of the skillets, which had warped beyond repair and the other fused with the range when the stove melted.
Stephanie and Kristi, both anthropological biologists, were unfazed by some of the more ghoulish aspects left behind after the fire, such as the charred animal remains scattering their property. They identified half a dozen rats, hoping none of the remains belonged to the neighborhood cat “Sam.”
“We’re rooting for Sam,” Kristi said, as they analyzed a larger set of remains, which they identified as belonging to a rabbit.
Stephanie and Kristi have the full support of the Red Cross, which provided them with food and shelter, as well as emotional support while they were evacuated. The Recovery team also will remain in contact with them, helping as they literally and figuratively rise from the ashes of their past.