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Arcadio Peña and his wife Elizabeth lost their home on Mark West Springs Road. Arcadio works in an auto body repair shop. They have since moved to an apartment in the same complex.

My daughter, that night, woke us up. I came out and I saw the glow on the other side of that mountain right there and I walked up to the gas station because there was tons of traffic coming this way. Then, all of a sudden, we saw these huge flames coming from the creek area and before I knew it, the fire was right there. And cops were telling us, “You gotta get the heck out of here now!” And I was like, “Calm down.” I didn’t have the slightest idea that the fire was gonna cross this way. Then we started hearing explosions and my wife and my daughter were really scared. I was being the man. Yes, I was scared, but I was also trying to comfort them and trying to say, “Hey, calm down. It’s going to be ok.”

I decided to come back on foot to get the other cars, but they didn’t let me come across; I only made it as far as the bridge. When I saw the flames at like Arby’s and Kmart I was like, “Oh my God! This is really getting bad.” And I saw the apartments over here all blazed. Me and my wife, my daughter, we got out with just the clothes we had on us.

The fire was moving. Even if you had every district right here to try to stop it, I don’t think they would’ve stopped it because they were saying that it was moving at 25 miles an hour. And I can believe that. One minute I was seeing a glow, and not even five minutes later, I saw flames 50, 60 feet in the air, houses exploding. The next thing you know you’re getting run out of here because the fire’s already right there. There was a panic. This whole road was so backed up with people trying to get out. People got out of their cars to run because the traffic wasn’t moving. But the fire was moving.

“There are times when I think about it, what we went through here. When I’m at work, I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I start crying.”
— Arcadio Peña

On Monday or Tuesday night, a friend of [Elizabeth’s] that lives nearby took a picture of this place and I was still in denial. We came that night, just to see for ourselves. The officer stopped me, but he was nice enough to let me come and look this way, and I was like, “Baby, our place is leveled. Everything we own is gone.” It looked like a ghost town. Everything was black, no lights. Just everything burnt. And it’s like “wow!” Never in our wildest dreams did we ever expect to see something like this. You hear of places where that’s happened. But when it happens to you, you really feel it in your heart.

Right now, we’re in a motel and it’s even harder to find places because everybody with money grabbed them right away. So that’s our little struggle. But the main thing is we got out with our health. A lot of people didn’t make it out.

I’m a heavy sleeper. Once I fall asleep, I’m out. But awake, or at work, I’m constantly [remembering]. And, like I said, I break down at times. Like when me and my wife were writing down the stuff that we lost. But I just basically try to stay strong for the family.