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Couple sift through debris of burned home, find solace in life

Published June 28, 2012 8:53 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Indianola • As crews fighting wildfires scrambled Wednesday around the central and southwest part of the state, one couple sifted through a lifetime of memories and what used to be at least $500,000 worth of their home and property.

David Taylor, 64, and his wife Janice, 63, were so involved in helping evacuate Indianola residents this past weekend from the raging Wood Hollow wildfire, they neglected to move their belongings and now have nothing left but the clothes they were wearing that night.

On Wednesday, as the semi-retired couple combed through the debris that once used to be a beautiful two-story brick home, they felt thankful to still have each other.

"When you see [what is left of the house] it is devastating, but nothing compared to losing your husband," she said.

Losing her husband was a legitimate concern for Janice on Saturday, when she was unable to contact David, a commander of Sanpete County Search and Rescue, while he was helping out in neighborhoods under the order to evacuate.

Janice was knocking on doors, warning residents to evacuate ahead of the wildfire. When the flames came close to homes, Janice tried to call David. Crews were unsuccessful getting David by radio or cell phone.

Not knowing the whereabouts of her husband was "two hours of torture," she said.

David was driving over a mountain when the winds changed and shoved walls of fire on both sides of the dirt road.

The winds shifted and headed west back up the hill at Indian Ridge subdivision. Firefighters couldn't hold back the 100-foot flames powered by a vortex of high winds.

"We had the manpower, we had the resources — Mother Nature wouldn't let them do their job," David said.

He got through the area, and met up with his wife at the fire station.

On Sunday morning, the couple received their own evacuation order, but were still helping out and, since the fire was moving away from their home, weren't too worried. But the winds changed direction and by noon, the fire had reached their home.

In a few hours, a lavish property with green grass, lush trees and intricate landscaping with mini waterfalls, ponds and fish became a bone-dry moonscape with heavy ash and charred vehicles.

The couple went back up Sunday night to see if their home had made it.

They arrived and found the house propane tank on fire and the home leveled. They sat speechless in their driveway in tears.

"It just takes your breath away," Janice said. "You are just numb, you don't know what to think."

Since then, the couple has been still actively involved in helping with various jobs when there are flare-ups.

On Wednesday, Janice and David wandered around piles of bricks and trails of melted metal for the first time since leaving their home. An independent insurance adjuster assessed the damage for all their vehicles. The house couldn't be appraised because it was still too hot from when it burned Sunday. The roof, main floor and basement all were reduced to a smoldering 3-foot high pile of debris and ash.

Janice said having more than 60-plus years of memories and acquired assets gone in an instant is devastating, but they have learned a perspective that keeps them emotionally going.

"Once it happens, there is nothing you can do to change it," Janice said,adding that she tries now to focus on the blessings she does have, like her husband and family.

For the various other residents who lost their homes and livestock, she hopes between the tears they will remember it will get better.

"Rely on your faith that tomorrow is a new day and will come," Janice said. "And it will be a different day."

cimaron@sltrib.com

Twitter: @CimCity