Tim and Dee McCarley drove their truck up to their property near Bly on Tuesday, days after the Bootleg Fire forced them to evacuate to a Red Cross shelter in Klamath Falls.

They had left home with nothing but the clothes on their backs and whatever they could load into their truck. Sheriff’s deputies had told them it was too dangerous to stay — the fire was baring down and would soon engulf their property.

So they left. Four days passed.

Both Tim and Dee figured everything they owned had been destroyed, consumed by the raging wildfire.

On Tuesday it was safe enough to briefly visit the property. Tim edged their truck through the black, ashen forests of lodgepole pines to see what had become of it. He started recording on his phone to document the devastation.

”Here we go,” Tim said, his voice low as the truck drove up the gravely road. “Getting close to our place.”

First, they caught a glimpse of their trucks as they slowly drove onto the property. The vehicles were covered in fire retardant, but on a patch of dry meadow surrounded by charred grass. It was as if the fire had rejected them for choicer morsels.

“I thought they were service trucks!” Dee said with palpable joy in her voice. Even the vehicle’s tires were undamaged.

“Look at all the trees we got left,” Tim said with excitement as the truck inched closer to the property.

Then their trailer poked out from the trees. It was still standing. And finally, their home emerged untouched, as if patiently waiting for their return.

“Thank you Lord Jesus,” Tim said.

“Thank you Jesus!” Dee said.

Some saved, some lost

The McCarleys did lose many of their personal belongings to the Bootleg, but they were shocked and grateful their home, some of their trailers and their vehicles were spared.

“I didn’t expect to see anything but charcoal,” Tim said with tears in his eyes on Tuesday at the Red Cross shelter.

“It was like the house wasn’t even touched. It’s like God put his hand on it,” Dee said.

The couple was visibly thankful for what they called a miracle.

The family currently remains at the Klamath County Fairgrounds, until all dangers of the fire has passed and it is safe to return. According to Darrell Fuller, a volunteer for the Red Cross Cascades Region, the shelter will stay open for as long as this fire keeps burning.

”We are going to be here for a while,” Fuller said.

The fairgrounds are also hosting an animal shelter where evacuees may bring their animals. About 130 people had already spent the night at the shelter through Tuesday, Fuller said.

The McClarleys were able to save their three cats — Bunny, Indy and Big Boy — who sat patiently in cages set off in the corner of the fairgrounds. Their other cat Katy also survived the fire and stayed behind in the house with plentiful food and water, Dee said.

— Reporter Joe Siess can be reached at (541) 885-4481 or jsiess@heraldandnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @jomsiess

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