REDDING, Calif. – The fires in California are leading to tragedy.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” said James Welch, the grandson of 70-year-old Melody Bledsoe, killed in the Carr Fire last Thursday. Bledsoe was with her two young great-grandchildren, Welch’s cousins, when flames suddenly swept through their Redding, California neighborhood.
“It’s such a tragedy,” Welch said, recalling the moment he got the call at work requesting he immediately go to the Marshal’s office.
His manager, Cindy Lamkin, said she knew something was wrong the moment Welch put down the phone.
“We went over to the marshal with them when they got the news,” says Lamkin, owner of Tortilla Flats, a Mexican restaurant serving Redding residents since 1978.
“The way I understand it, Grandma put some wet quilts over them, and some wet quilts over her, and lay on top of them, and they didn’t make it out of the fire,” said Lamkin. “It’s just tragic, tragic. It’s just horrible.”
“My grandpa was stuck in traffic from helping evacuate someone else, and the fire had jumped to their property, and he wasn’t able to get there,” Welch said. “My grandpa was on the phone with them as they were screaming the fire is at the back door, the fire is at the front door!”
Lamkin also said several of her friends lost their homes.
“It’s just so sad. I don’t know how you recover from it,” said Lamkin.
Over the past week, the Carr Fire has destroyed more than 1,000 homes.
But for Lamkin, it was Welch’s loss that touched most close to home.
“I have two grandsons, so it just makes me think that it could have been us,” said Lamkin.
Lamkin has spent the past week using her restaurant to do whatever she can do to help: collecting home items, raising funds and giving away free meals to evacuees and first responders.
She also is working to help Welch and his family.
“I just wanted to support James,” Lamkin said. “They have a GoFundMe set up, so we’re going to donate to that. We’re going to help get those babies buried and grandma buried and whatever we need to do.”
She said the tragedy has reminded her that life is short.
“So just love everybody and pray for everybody and take care of everybody,” said Lamkin.
As for Welch, he said he couldn’t thank his manager and coworkers enough.
“They’re amazing,” said Welch. “They’ve done so much for me. “
Neither one of them said they could make sense of what happened.
“But there’s a lot of good in the world still,” said Lamkin. “So all the good needs to overcome all the bad.”