Evacuees find comfort in returning to work place | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Evacuees find comfort in returning to work place

Susan Wood
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Cyndie and Tim Gilliam embrace inside their temporary home on Monday morning. "We will rebuild, I want my place to have the first nail going in," said Tim of his Mule Deer Circle home.

After losing everything in the Angora fire, Summer Conner returned to work at Camp Richardson Resort hotel a few days ago with the hopes of being distracted.

But the front desk clerk’s guests and callers often ask about the fire’s status, and it takes her back to a huge trauma for the 18-year-old who was celebrating moving into her grandparents’ home three weeks ago. She’s now living in one of the hotel’s rooms.

“I’ve only considered two places home in my life, and they’re both in Tahoe,” she said, reflecting on her North Upper Truckee neighborhood. “The most memories are there.”

Her important records burned.

“It’s difficult because I don’t have anything to prove who I am,” she said.

To cope, the young woman tries to have people around.

“I really don’t want to be alone,” she said.

Apparently, she’s not in spirit. Camp Richardson Resort — which has five employees who were affected by the 3,100-acre fire — established a donation jar at the Beacon Bar and Grill to provide assistance.

Missy Springer, who returned to work Monday, finds a little comfort in coming to her office after also experiencing a total loss of her Angora Creek home and its precious belongings on Sunday.

A painting her father composed was kept at the office — giving her further jitters Tuesday when her employer was asked to evacuate.

Barton Memorial Hospital employs 13 staffers impacted by the fire. Two of them came from the same household that once stood on Mule Deer Circle.

Tim Gilliam’s eyes widen when he recalls Sunday’s fire — as he was doing landscaping in the yard, the sky turned orange and black then “a 500 foot wall of fire with flames 100 feet high” came rushing toward their home.

“Everything with a heartbeat got out,” he said of their cats and dogs.

When he and his wife, Cyndie, looked in the rear view mirror, they knew their home was gone. The charred lantern, remnants of a Lionel train track and pieces of a scorched ceramic cat collection provide the proof of the bitter memories.

The couple has tried to view their next steps one day at a time.

Being in health care, they checked into work Tuesday after the wildfire broke the line and hopped over Highway 89 — he, in medical imaging, and she, in the Barton University.

Since then, they’ve worked part-time in the hopes of making progress on recovery.

“It actually helps to get my mind off of it. (Work) is a welcome escape. If you just stayed here and thought about (the trauma), you’d go nuts,” he said.

Leanne Kankel, Barton human resources manager, understands this type of thinking completely.

“When something like this happens, you need some sense of normalcy,” she said.

The Angora fire consumed 254 homes, displacing hundreds of permanent residents. Many have a varying tolerance for working because it’s tough to concentrate when one faces total destruction at home.

For some, it’s not a question of losing belongings. It’s a question of losing items that identify their lives.

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