THE Castletownbere woman and her five children who were evacuated from their home just minutes before the Californian fires engulfed it, were evacuated two weeks later from the temporary home they had been given.
Zita Harrington, originally from West Cork, but living in the US since 2000, was moved to a ‘safe house’ in Fall River after she lost the home she had shared with her children.
But, bizarrely, two weeks to the day of the original fire, she was forced to leave the ‘safe house’ due to the threat from a new fire.
Her sister Susan Harrington, who lives in Skibbereen, told The Southern Star that Zita, a paramedic, and her five children, spent that night on floors at a friend’s house with no power.
However, the fires have since been contained and the family are now back in temporary accommodation.
Meanwhile, the crowd funding page set up to help the single mum has far exceeded its target.
The Go Fund Me page had a target of ,000, but this week it exceeded ,500 in donations.
Describing the fires as ‘Armageddon’, Zita said her family were lucky to escape with their lives.
She was living in the house with her five children – ranging in age from 23 months to 17 years, as her sixth child, her eldest son, is in the navy.
‘If we had been in our beds asleep we would have all been killed,’ said Zita. ‘This fire has actually being going on since a week last Monday and it started miles and miles away from us,’ she told The Southern Star.
‘It looked like the fire was miles away, across the river. But within two or three minutes, it suddenly got darker and I knew it was coming. The police arrived then to tell people to get out immediately.’
The family grabbed some clothes, while one of them grabbed a photograph of Zita’s late father, which she said meant so much to her. Then they jumped in her car to make their escape.
‘All I could see was a wall of flames on the other side of the road. The kids were totally panicked and I told them to pray … There was a line of cars ahead of us. The only way out was to drive through a dirt road as all the other roads were blocked.’
The family sought refuge in Shasta College, which became an evacuation centre for those left homeless by the fires. ‘We registered with the Red Cross there and it was really hard trying to contain Quinn, my youngest, who is only 23 months, as well as the others,’ said Zita.
Despite all the trauma, she went back to work days later as a paramedic, to help other staff who were tied up in the fire crisis. Zita was then given temporary accommodation in Fall River, five minutes from where she works, but had to move when fires threatened their home once again.
But the fact she has exceeded her ,000 target on the crowd-funding site means she will be able to start to rebuild her life again.
‘I’d imagine she’ll be spending the money on renting a new house in Fall River, furnishing it, buying basic household goods and furnishings, clothing her kids and, as they will be attending new schools, I expect there will be lots of school related-expenses too,’ said Susan.
‘She is so grateful that friends, as well as strangers ,are thinking of her and sending good wishes, prayers and emotional support.’