Families return to charred homes following Graham brush fire

GRAHAM, Wash. — As the smoke lifts, people are getting a closer look at the damage in Graham where a fire burned down six homes and charred 100 acres.

Firefighters said a tree fell on powerlines Monday night and sparked the fire.

Wednesday, families headed back to see what was left of their homes as they shared memories of the fire.

“I ran for my life,” said Darrell Herde.

When Herde saw flames racing toward his home, one thought went through his mind.

“Get out of here or you’re going to die,” he said.

He woke up Monday night to a stranger banging on his front door.

“He was yanking on my door and telling me to run. I thought he was a little nuts. I didn’t think it was that bad,” Herde said.

However, the fire was bad, and it was moving quickly.

“Five minutes after, I walked out the door. It was crawling through trees. And you can’t believe how fast those ambers were flying at you,” Herde said.

The 71-year-old got out of his home just in time with only the clothes on his back.

“You see what I got on? The only thing that is different is I went out and bought a pair of shoes today,” he said.

The walls of Herde’s home are gone, his appliances are charred and all that remains is some mangled metal and parts of the foundation. His car collection is ruined, and everything inside his garage is destroyed and covered in ash.

But, for Herde, there’s only one thing that mattered, and it’s something he can’t get back.

“I tell you what went through my heart. Someplace in that pile, there is my mother’s rings, and it tore my heart out,” he said. “That’s something that sort of killed me this morning. The rest of this stuff -- it’s stuff that you can replace.”

The fire may have taken nearly everything, but after living in the same spot for 30 years, Herde said he isn’t going anywhere. He doesn’t have insurance but said he plans to rebuild.

He knows memories of this week’s fire will replay in his mind for years to come.

“I know people -- they care. But until you go through something like that, you can’t imagine it,” he said.

The Graham neighborhood will be under a Level 3 evacuation order until 6 p.m. Wednesday.