BUTTE COUNTY (CBS13) – The Bear Fire, also known as the North Complex West Zone wildfire has now claimed 14 lives and seven people remain unaccounted for as of Sunday, according to authorities.
“When someone dies in this, it’s very tragic,” said Holly Catarancuic, who lost her mother in the fire
Catarancuic’s mother, 77-year-old Millicent Catarancuic, was a lover of animals and led a full and interesting life, according to her daughter.
“When I laughed, she told me over and over again how much she loved me and that she was proud of me,” Holly said.
Millicent, along with Holly’s aunt and uncle called from their home Tuesday as the Bear Fire was growing closer, saying they were packed up to leave, Holly said.
“Then at seven o’clock, they called back and they said they’d been looking on the internet and said that the fire was being contained and that they weren’t in any imminent danger,” Dan Kern, Holly’s partner, said. “And that’s the last we talked to them.”
A silent Wednesday followed for Holly, Dan and the rest of their family.
“There was about 24 hours where we didn’t know what was happening,” Kern said. “That was starting from Wednesday morning when we realized the fire had burnt through Berry Creek.”
The phone buzzed on Thursday with a call from the Butte County Sheriff’s Office that they were dreading, saying they needed DNA samples to positively identify her mother’s remains.
“When I didn’t hear from her when I woke up, I knew something. Had my mom gotten out, she would’ve called us,” Holly said. “I was hoping for a while she was just in a bad cell reception area.”
“A news article of a truck saying three are dead off of the road where our family lives and I recognized that picture right away as my uncle’s truck,” Zygy Roe-Zurz, Holly’s cousin, said.
Roe-Zurz’s mother is Millicent’s younger sister. She is still missing after the flames tore through the Berry Creek home.
“Even though my mom wasn’t found right next to my uncle and my aunt, or who we think is my uncle and know where my aunt was, it doesn’t look good and it’s a terrible feeling,” Roe-Zurz said.
Heartbreak and agony filled this family in mourning.
As President Donald Trump is set to arrive in Sacramento on Monday to be briefed on the wildfires, this family hopes something can be learned from what they’ve been through.
“We need to put more resources into personnel, into warning systems and into conservation,” Roe-Zurz said.
“There needs to be a way that people get information that’s the right information so that they know to leave,” Catarancuic said.
This family told CBS13 that it deeply appreciates all of the love and support it has gotten from friends and family reaching out to comfort them and offer their condolences.