GRAHAM, Wash. - Neighbors spent the day checking on Darrell Herde, knowing how much he lost in the fire this week.
“Someplace in that pile there, I had my mother’s rings," said the 71-year-old retired mill worker, his voice cracking and eyes tearing up. "Tore my heart up. I know people, they care. Until you go through something like that, you just can’t imagine."
Herde was fast asleep Monday night when a stranger started banged on his front door and told him he had to go.
“Get out of here or you’re going to die. That’s what I was thinking," Herde said. “That fire, it was up here. It was 25, 30 feet tall. I decided it was time to go home and I ran for my life.”
The home he's lived in for 30 years was destroyed along with several of his cars.
Fire crews say the strong winds knocked a tree onto some powerlines, which sparked the fire. The gusts were so fierce, within minutes, it raced through the rural neighborhood.
In all, five homes were destroyed, along with ten outbuildings and dozens of vehicles.
Herde's neighbor Kim Johnson came to check on him.
“We were out there with firehoses for as long as we could,” Johnson said.
She grabbed her family and drove through the flames.
Johnson could only pray, as she returned to her neighborhood to find all of the houses around hers destroyed.
“When we came back our house was the only one standing," Johnson said.
She feels fortunate while knowing her neighbor, Herde lost his home and his treasured memento from his mother that mattered most.
“That just kind of killed me this morning," Herde said. "The rest of this stuff, it’s stuff you can replace.”