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Kenneth de la Torre is a college student and pro mountain bike racer; at the time of the fires he was an employee of NorCal Bike Sport.

I was driving home from a race and my grandparents and my uncle are in Sacramento and Elk Grove, so I [decided to] just stop there and spend the night. I rolled over in bed randomly at 2:30 am, and I looked at my phone to see what time it was and I had 36 missed calls and one text message from a friend that said, ”I just need to know you’re okay.”

So I called her and she was sobbing. And I’m like, “What’s going on?” She’s like, “Oh my God! Thank God you’re okay!” She [said], “Fountaingrove burned down. Sonoma’s on fire. Santa Rosa is on fire!”

Immediately my first instinct was to put on my clothes, [I was] running around trying to put my pants on, trying to turn on the news to see what’s going on. There was no news on, and the only place I could find pictures or any sort of information was on Facebook. That’s basically the way I figured out what was going on because it happened so, so quickly that the news reports were ten hours late.

I finally was able to look at a map and I realized there was no way I was going to Santa Rosa because everything was gridlocked. My sister and her boyfriend lost their house too, and it took them three hours to get not even a quarter of the way through town.

“The only place I could find pictures or any sort of information was on Facebook...because it happened so, so quickly that news was ten hours late.”

I called [my boss’s] wife to make sure that she was okay, but I couldn’t get her to answer the phone. She called me half an hour later and she was crying saying, “Our house is going to burn down.” Immediately, when she told me that, I was like, ‘Okay, my house is gone.’

People would tell me to go to free clothing events and all this other stuff. Recently, I started going, but in the beginning I would go out there and I see moms with their five kids and single parents…and it felt like, ‘How am I going to take this stuff when there are that many people who lost their stuff?’

When it comes down to it and you lose everything, you start to think about how much of that stuff is insignificant compared to coming here and hanging out at the bike shop, you know? I started coming to work because I was like, well, ’One home burned. I’m not going to let my other home get ransacked by looters!’

[NorCal Bike Sport] is—I mean all of our employees say it — it’s a lot more like a family than a job.