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Junction City evacuees return home, while some never left

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JUNCTION CITY, Calif. - As evacuees from the Helena Fire continued returning home Friday afternoon, some admitted they never left.

Jack Pottorff is one example. He said he was under a mandatory evacuation nine years ago during the Eagle Fire, but decided to stay then, too.

Pottorff built his custom home off of Red Hill Road and wanted to stay behind to protect and maintain it the best he could, given the close proximity of the fire.

The safety risks of staying behind, however, didn't change his mind.

"There is the danger here, but that we've prepared for it. So far, we've survived two fires; so, we'll see how it goes," he said, adding that he's relieved the mandatory evacuation in his area has been lifted.

While some homes in Junction City are still standing, others are mere ash and debris.

Many of the homes in the Cooper Bar Estates, further down Red Hill Road, were destroyed, with the exception of a few. However, residents with homes still standing aren't allowed back inside yet.

The McIntosh family, who have lived in Junction City for four years, are some of the lucky ones who are settling back in now that evacuation orders have been lifted.

"To come home and have everything still be here is just very humbling," Duncan McIntosh said.

Duncan and his wife, Liz, said they left their homes on Wednesday, August 30. They only left with the essentials, their three daughters and pets.

As first-time evacuees, they said it was a stressful process, but they feel more prepared for the next time a wildfire hits.

"No matter how much you prepare you can always do more, and so, we're just going to do more because moving is just not an option for us," Liz said.

"This is our home," Duncan added. "When we left, there were flames that were coming towards our place, and it was us saying goodbye to our home and our dreams."

After they evacuated, Duncan said he got a call from a neighbor that the swamp in their backyard had caught fire. He returned to help contain it, but still gives full credit to law enforcement and firefighters.

"It got within ten feet of our home," he said, noting that it was nothing short of a miracle.

"Just by the simple switch in the wind, it could've been us," Liz said.

Not only are they hopeful that they're backyard will recover, they are hopeful that the community will recover, too, and they are ready to lend a helping hand to those down Red Hill Road who weren't as fortunate.

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