'I've got a little clean-up to do,' Ronald Tucker says, between laughs and tears
(Update: Adding video, comments from homeowner)
LA PINE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Darlene Fire southeast of La Pine raced across nearly 700 acres and destroyed two residences, including everything on the property owned by Ronald Tucker and his family.
Tucker, evacuated from the property off Old Ice Cave Road,, returned to find nearly all 20 acres, with everything on it, destroyed.
"Whew -- it's kind of a mess," Tucker said Monday, looking out over the burned, ash-covered remnants of his belongings. "I've got a little clean-up to do.”
He is trying his best to pick up the pieces -- but at the moment, he doesn’t know where to start.
"We had enough to get by inside the house for about a year,” Tucker said, looking at the remains of his home “But, 'had' -- key word."
Tucker lived on the property with his wife Ruby, his 96-year-old disabled mother and her caretaker.
The caretaker lived in a trailer on the property that was destroyed as well.
Tucker explained where some of the items used to be in his house.
"The top shelf had my dad's flag on it,” Tucker said. “Mom and Dad are both World War II vets."
He said when he got the call to evacuate, it was less than an hour before he could feel the fire and sense the pressure to get out of its way.
“It (the smoke) was pretty thick out here at that point,” Tucker said, now able to laugh a bit.
Tucker made sure everyone, as well as their six dogs and four cats, were out.
He even made a second trip back, to grab his mother's wheelchair.
"I didn't have room for the wheelchair,” Tucker recalled. “So I knew I had to hurry and come back, and I did -- I got the wheelchair."
For now, Tucker and his family are staying in a motel, with assistance from the state.
He has received clothes and other items from some neighbors, and said he is beyond grateful for the help the community has already given.
"I want to say a really big 'thank you' to the people of La Pine,” Tucker said, trying to hold back the tears. “Put clothes on our back. I'm sorry, I've got to go,” Tucker said as he took a moment to gather himself.
Tucker has been a mechanic for most of his life and has a number of cars, trucks, tractors and other vehicles.
Nearly all of them were destroyed.
"I'm a fix-it man. I've fixed everything all my life -- and I don't know how to fix this one,” Tucker said. “I don't know how to fix it."
And if another fire comes, he's not sure he could handle it.
“Why couldn't it happen 20 years ago when we were still -- I'm going to be 75 this next time. I don't think I've got enough 'oomph' to get out here and do it all,” Tucker said, again fighting back tears.
However, he has no plans on leaving.
For Tucker, it's just time to get back to work.
"I ain't quit! It's a little setback. Well, maybe a little more than a little one,” Tucker said as he again began to laugh.
Tucker said he wants to thank the La Pine community, and all the firefighters and sheriff's deputies who helped notify him and his family, and are still working hard to put out the fires.
You can find the link to a fundraiser set up for Tucker and his family here.