Boise man thankful after neighbor saves mother's home from California wildfire

A Boise man is thankful after his family escaped a fast-moving wildfire in California. He credits a neighbor with helping to save his mom's house.

BOISE - In northern California, wildfires are still burning. At least 40 people have died, 5,700 structures have been destroyed and thousands of acres have been burned.

Roughly 11,000 firefighters continue to battle the flames. Some evacuation orders have been lifted Sunday night, but fire managers warn shifting winds could change that in an instant.

MORE: California 'getting the upper hand' against deadly wildfires

In the Treasure Valley, there is a large population of Californians who in some way or another have been affected by these fires.

For Mike Burns, who grew up in Santa Rosa, it really hits home.

His 80-year-old mother, his brother and his wife, and their three children where evacuated from their house early Monday morning.

"There were eight or 10 voicemails, texts, emails and I was like whoa this is kind of weird," said Burns. "It was actually my mom leaving me a message at 3 a.m. saying we're okay the fire is probably going to get the house, we've evacuated."

At that moment, Burns and his wife dropped everything and started packing.

"We told the kids, 'hey we're packing up we're heading to California to see what we can do,'" he said.

They drove nearly 700 miles to Santa Rosa unsure what they would find when they got there..

"We had a lot of time to think what could happen, what is happening, what could we do to help," Burns said.

When his family was evacuated, flames were feet from their house.

"They looked out the window and literally the back of their next door neighbor's house was on fire," Burns said.

They grabbed what they could like keys and phones. All they had were the clothes on their backs as they left behind wallets and cars. 

Burns finally got ahold of his family when they reached Reno, Nevada.

"We knew the county was on fire, we knew the fire had jumped the freeway, we knew the hill was about gone, but you just didn't know what was up with the house," he said.

When they reached the bay area, a scene of devastation unfolded.

"The power was out for 50 miles," Burns said. "It's pitch black and all you could see was fire, it was crazy. My high school is gone, the grocery store that you walk to is gone, the elementary schools is burned."

Thanks to a neighbor, a local dentist Sean Wilson, Burns' mom's home is still standing.

"We would consider him a hero," said Burns. "He stayed and dug a fire line behind his house and behind my mom's house and the fire was all around."

Wilson waved down a fire truck coming up the hill. Ultimately, they were able to save four homes in their small subdivision. Others weren't so lucky.

Burns says his family still hasn't been able to get back to their home to assess the damage. Officials say it may be weeks before they can do that. 

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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