Colfax family trip to Santa Cruz turns to nightmare after River Fire destroys homes

Colfax resident Josh Sanguinetti decided to take a short vacation in Santa Cruz, heading out with his wife and two young boys from their Hillcrest Boulevard home before the River Fire erupted Wednesday afternoon.

By Thursday morning, Sanguinetti had learned from neighbors that his home, and his brother’s home next door, were both gone.

“”We’re in shock right now, just disbelief,” the 44-year-old contractor said from Santa Cruz, where he and his wife were debating when to come back to what had once been home to them and their boys, ages 8 and 4. “I want to come home so badly, and my wife’s like, ‘Well, what are we going to do?’

“We weren’t there, I wasn’t able to rescue any of our stuff. My brother was there, he got the evacuation order and within 30 minutes it was madness, the flames were coming.”

Sanguinetti said he learned the houses, which stood not far from Colfax High School, were gone from neighbors who defied the evacuation order and stayed Wednesday night as the firestorm approached.

“Some of the neighbors stood their ground and they were able to take pictures and verify that our house is burned down,” he said. I’m a general contractor. I run a remodeling business.

“I had tools and gear and boats and classic cars, and all of our family stuff,” he said. “It was a family home. I’m the third generation to take it over.”

Fire officials estimate at least 40 homes were destroyed in the blaze, which had consumed 2,500 acres as of Thursday afternoon and was 0% contained. Even if the family had wanted to come see the destruction, officials were not allowing residents back into the fire zone Thursday.

Although the massive smoke plume that erupted from the area was gone by Thursday, firefighters were still concerned by high winds that were expected to sweep in and carry the potential for more flare ups.

The Sanguinetti family is one of several who lost homes and have had friends begin GoFundMe accounts trying to help. By Thursday, 50 donors had given $6,115 of a $10,000 goal, and Sanguinetti said he already has heard from his insurance agent wanting to be sure he and his family were all right, a move that Sanguinetti said “brought tears to my eyes.”

“We’re just really thankful to be safe,” Sanguinetti said. “And we’re really thankful that the firefighters saved the school.

“We’re trying to focus our blessings on what we do have.”