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Haven Hills Ranch owner returns to Silver Fire devastation

By Greg Lee, KESQ News Channel 3 & CBS Local 2 Reporter, glee@kesq.com
Published On: Aug 15 2013 08:48:01 PM CDT
TWIN PINES, Calif. -

The Silver Fire destroyed more than 27 structures in the mountain communities above Banning.  Dramatic aerial video shows flames quickly moving through a property, burning everything in its path.  One week later, the fire left behind only a charred pile of rubble.  "I wanted to scream and cry, but I didn't," said Haven Hills Ranch owner Mary Jane Marcell.  

The 88-year-old and her late husband bought the land and built the ranch 50 years ago.  When evacuation orders were lifted, she came home to the expansive damage.  Charred toolboxes and pieces of metal laid where the workshop used to stand.  Her beloved green house was gone.  The fire burned so hot it melted lights and flower pots.  In all, ten outbuildings went up in flames, hundreds of thousands of dollars in property, but the biggest loss, 50 years of memories at Haven Hills Ranch. "Seeing all the work that we have ever dreamed of doing, devastated, black," said Marcell.  "This was like heaven, now it looks like hell."

Marcell was able to save a few prized possessions.  When she was evacuated, she grabbed three things: her dog Dakota, her husband's ashes, and a photo from the first time she met him, 68 years ago. Though much went up in smoke, firefighters managed to save her home.  "Look at how close to the house it got," Marcell said.  "From this house to the green house and they saved it.  What more can you say for the firefighters?" 

This is not the first time Marcell's seen her ranch blackened by flames.  Her home burned in 2006 in an electrical fire.  Without proper insurance, she got scammed.  "It was I felt, too much for what he did," said Marcell.  "But hey, that's a lesson I learned, I didn't do anything about it."

Now, without any insurance for the outbuildings, she's in a similar situation, but with a different outlook.  She's already back to calling the cows home and looking for the good in everything.  "I've been wanting that dam, weed-whacked, the grass was that high, and the fire did it for me." 

She says it's going to take time, but she plans to rebuild.