Susan Stillwell was driving home from her part-time job at the Redding Veterans' Home Saturday, when, right around Red Bluff, she noticed a huge plume of black smoke in the distance.
"I could see all that smoke, and I'm going, 'Oh my God. There's a fire somewhere.'" An amatuer photo hobbyist, she pulled over to take some pictures, then got back in her car. When she got closer to her home west of Corning, she realized the smoke was coming from her neighborhood.
Then, the unthinkable. The hills leading to her home were blackened and smoldering. She pulled up to her home to find it burning to the ground, little left other than a gate and some ruins, still on fire. "It was horrible. I just couldn't believe it. My house was on the ground. Flames were coming out, and the wind was ripping around."
Stillwell says all 6 of her pets were inside, including three cats and three dogs, all rescues. "My house-that's one thing," she says, crying. "But my little animals! My little dogs and my cats were in there."
That night, as she tried to wrap her head around the tragedy, she had a heart attack. She survived.
Two days later, she finally caught a break. A neighbor called to say one of her dogs, "Clover," was found in the backyard, and refused to leave the property. She was reunited with Clover, and it brought a smile to her face. She plans to give Clover to a couple who will take her on many adventures.
Stillwell, who lost her husband to cancer, has nothing left. A GoFundMe account has been set up in her name. If you'd like to help, click here.
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