Former Coastsider Meagan McClung Mapes, along with her firefighter husband, young daughters and parents are among the thousands affected by the devastating Camp Fire in Butte County.
While Mapes is luckier than many of her neighbors — through her husband’s actions, her family was able to keep her home — she expects that it will be months before she will be able to move back.
Mapes’ parents, John and Donna McClung, were the owners of Dan’s Restaurant in Moss Beach for several years and were well-known fixtures on the coast before they retired recently to move to Paradise to be closer to their grandchildren.
On the morning of Nov. 8, Mapes says she was getting her 5-year-old daughter, Ember, ready for kindergarten when she looked out her window and saw what she first thought was a strange cloud out in the distance. The cloud had an orange tint to it, which she thought might have been colored by the sun.
Later, when her husband, Keith, opened the front door, it became clear that they were dealing with a fire.
Mapes said her husband’s firefighting instincts took over.
“He went right into (creating) defensible space and told me to pack,” Mapes said.
The couple checked on their neighbors and Keith told his wife that she should take off with the kids and the family dog and he would stay behind to protect their home.
Mapes said he did that with rakes, shovels and a leaf blower and was able to protect the family’s home and a couple of the neighbor’s homes and stayed behind for two weeks to keep an eye out for spot fires and looters.
Keith Mapes had the day off and his wife says she feels fortunate that he was home that day. She said an evacuation order hadn’t gone out until 4:30 that afternoon, after the town had already largely burned down.
Most people headed south to flee the town, but Meagan Mapes went north and met up with more family in order to evacuate together.
Mapes said the fire came fast and was everywhere.
“When you’re stopped in traffic and there’s fire next to you, it can get pretty crazy,” Mapes said. “I think everyone had just one thought in mind: Get out.”
Mapes and her immediate family, including her parents, are now staying with family in Chico.
While it’s tight arrangements for everyone, Mapes feels lucky to have a safe place. With the need to clear debris and clean up, Mapes says she wouldn’t be surprised if the family isn’t able to move back home until next summer.
“It seems like everyone I know is housing multiple families right now,” Mapes said. “Everyone is stepping up and doing what they can for their little town.”
As a third-generation Coastside resident, the Half Moon Bay High School graduate is familiar with the strong sense of community a small town can provide.
Graphics Works owner Kelly Hoffman-Davis started a GoFundMe page for the family last week that has generated more than $3,000 from 32 donors — many of whom are Coastsiders. Hoffman-Davis is also a member of the Coastside News Group Inc. board of directors. CNGI owns the Half Moon Bay Review.
The GoFundMe page can be found at www.gofundme.com/coastside-family-camp-fire-survivors.
Mapes acknowledged the support.
“In so many ways, my heart is so full,” she said.