This was the decision facing Michael and Jessica Malcom on Thursday afternoon, June 28 in Pocatello, Idaho where the Charlotte Fire consumed 66 homes. Jessica is the daughter of Bob and Debbie Allred of Grover and the owners of Allred Appliance in Afton. Jessica had just returned from helping a neighbor and was planning to take a babysitter home who had been watching her four children. She was aware of a wildfire burning in the region, and found police barricades blocking the babysitter’s neighborhood.
She called her husband, Michael at his business in Pocatello to alert him of the closure not far from their own home.
Concerned that conditions could change rapidly, Michael raced back to his home where he found the air thick with smoke and ash falling from the air.
As he pulled into his driveway, his wife followed with all four children in their vehicle, and she was followed by a police officer directing them to evacuate their home immediately.
With the power off, Michael threw clothing into a duffle bag, while his wife secured the family lap top with their records. The camp trailer was hooked up to Michael’s vehicle, the dog was taken off the leash, put in the family car and they left.
This all happened in minutes and a short time later their home, along with most of their neighbors homes, went up in a fiery blaze.
Residents watched from a nearby LDS Church parking lot where they first gathered. “We looked back up to where the home was and fire was ripping through,” Michael recalled.
In the meantime, Michael’s Dad came to the area to assist in the battle as a volunteer fireman from a nearby southeastern Idaho community.
As the firemen and police secured the area, Michael and Jessica, received word on their home’s condition from Michael’s father.
The couple teared up as they advised their four children, Derric, 8; Micylee, 6; Jazlyn, 4; and Xander, 1, the family home was gone.
On Saturday, June 30, the family returned to their neighbored and the remains of their home.
“As we approached we saw all of the burnt Junipers. It looked like a war zone, like a bomb had gone up,” Michael recalled.
When the Malcom family arrived at their street, “there was nothing but chimneys here and there,” he said. “There were burnt vehicles, with no rubber left on them and shiny aluminum dripping out of the bottom.”
He continued, “The smell was horrific, burning ash, metal, and smoke, we could even taste it. When we breathed, it stung our throat.”
In that setting the family assessed the remains of their own home where the basement was filled with metal remains of their appliances that had fallen from an upper floor.
Little had survived, with the exception of an LDS Young Women’s Medallion found in the ashes.
In succeeding days, the family has made arrangements to rent a small home in a nearby neighborhood and start rebuilding from their loss.
They’re optimistic. First thinking they may leave the area completely, a second visit to the home site on the Fourth of July brought a change of thought, with consideration that this fire may offer a time for not only rebuilding, but renewal.
“Maybe change brings new life and growth,” Michael concluded. “Now the thought is to stay on that land.”
This story appeared in the July 12, 2012 edition of the Star Valley Independent.