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Lake Isabella resident talks about losing his home to the French Fire

"It was just frightening.”
Andrew Alvarez, French Fire, Lake Isabella, August 23, 2021
Andrew Alvarez, French Fire, Lake Isabella, August 23, 2021
Andrew Alvarez, French Fire, Lake Isabella, August 23, 2021
Andrew Alvarez, French Fire, Lake Isabella, August 23, 2021
Andrew Alvarez, French Fire, Lake Isabella, August 23, 2021
Andrew Alvarez, French Fire, Lake Isabella, August 23, 2021
Andrew Alvarez, French Fire, Lake Isabella, August 23, 2021
Posted at 3:49 PM, Aug 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-23 22:11:07-04

LAKE ISABELLA, Calif. (KERO) — The French Fire near Lake Isabella is continuing to burn. It's currently at almost 15,000 acres and has destroyed a total of 17 structures, including nine homes. One of those was the home of Andrew Alvarez.

The area of Sawmill Road is where Andrew Alvarez’s cabin used to be. The French Fire, which has been burning since Wednesday, scorched the entire area burning his home to the ground. But Alvarez says he is grateful he has friends and family who have been there for him during this difficult time. His home is gone and he wasn’t able to get much before leaving.

Andrew Alvarez, French Fire, Lake Isabella, August 23, 2021

“I had about 10 minutes before the fire engulfed us. So, the police came and said you better get out of here or you’re going to die. I just had a few minutes to leave with a few little things,” said Alvarez. “I got maybe a couple t-shirts and a coat and that’s about it. It was like a firestorm, like a tornado, there was canopies over 30 feet in the air. It was just frightening.”

Alvarez says when he found out there was a fire he didn’t know what he was going to do.

Andrew Alvarez, French Fire, Lake Isabella, August 23, 2021

“It’s a funny feeling. You immediately start thinking about where you’re going to go and what you’re going to do.”

Years ago Alvarez experienced a fire at the cabin but unlike this time the cabin survived.

“We survived one, another one as big as this one. I don’t remember what year it was but it was at least 25 years ago. It was a bad one. It scorched my cabin, the paint off the sides of the walls, and blew the windows up but it didn’t go.”

Andrew Alvarez, French Fire, Lake Isabella, August 23, 2021

But he says the French Fire and this year’s dry season is unlike any other one he’s seen before.

“It’s a big one. It’s a very dry season. It's amazing how much. There was no moisture anywhere. I’ve been there for many, many years and I’ve seen dry seasons but this is the worst I’ve ever seen it.”

Andrew Alvarez, French Fire, Lake Isabella, August 23, 2021

The cabin has been in the family since 1972 when his father bought it. And when Alvarez retired 12 years ago, he made it his home and vacation home for his children and grandchildren.
“I love my grandkids and children and having them come up and being treated like a father and grandfather and being pampered. That’s what I love the most.”

He says he hasn’t visited the area yet but he knows it won’t be easy. What will Alvarez miss the most? Having his family visit.

Andrew Alvarez, French Fire, Lake Isabella, August 23, 2021

“I know I’m going to break out in tears and it’s just something I have to face and the memories of my father and the things he and I built together is gone. So it’s a tough road to cross.”

Alvarez says what will make him feel better is being able to still go fishing.

“Crossing fingers my boats there, so I can go fishing. That will make me feel better.”

According to 23ABC's Brianna Willis, Alvarez's boat is still standing.

Evacuation orders are still in place for rural communities in the path of French Fire.