Umatilla families pick up the pieces after a fire destroys their homes

<p>Umatilla Fire</p>

Umatilla Fire

A couple families in Umatilla are picking up the pieces to their lives after a fast moving fire destroyed their homes yesterday afternoon.

Firefighters are still investigating the cause of the fire.

They believe it started outside one of the homes that was destroyed.

The families who lost everything are now searching their homes for anything in decent condition they can take with them as they start over.

Bonnie Walchli has lived in the same home in Umatilla for the last ten years.

She and her husband shared their two-story home with three pets: a dog and two cats.

But today, Walchli is salvaging what's left of their lives after a massive fire destroyed their home.

"I came home and there was smoke everywhere, I couldn't even see my house. I didn't know what was going on, and I didn't know anything about my animals" said Walchli.

Yesterday, around 2:30 PM, a fire broke out outside a now unrecognizable home on Pheasant Ridge Road.

Heavy winds picked up the flames in the backyard and moved the fire to three other neighboring homes, including Walchli's - all four of those homes were destroyed.

"My reaction was, I don't know if I can say this on TV, but like Hell. I mean, it was flames as you can see were lapping up to the street side here, we had flying burning debris flying over us into the backyards of houses across the street. I've been here for 20 years, and I've not seen anything like that in a residential fire" said Lt. Steven Potts, Umatilla Rural Fire Protection District.

However, one home right in the middle of the fire was not damaged.

Homeowner Noe Valdez Jr. says his home was spared, because he recently killed most of the dry weeds in his backyard.

"I had to run through the wind, the spray of hoses, and I thought my house was gone, cuz both houses on the left, both houses on the right were on fire. So I was surprised when I saw mine still standing. I couldn't believe it" said Valdez.

Now, these families are left picking up the pieces.

"Right now, we're trying to go through everything and see what we can find" said Walchli.

Walchli found her dog and one of her cats, but is still searching for the other, as she tries to move on and create a new home.

"I don't know, I just take it one day at a time. So hopefully, everything will be ok" said Walchli.

More than 50 firefighters from across the region came to Pheasant Ridge Road to battle the flames.

Nobody was injured.