Vera “Cimarron” Barrozo and her family picked through the ashes of their home Saturday after the evacuation order in Loma Rica was lifted.
When they’d fled their home early Monday as fire bore down on them, they’d left behind lifetimes of curios and family history. But that wasn’t the worst of it.
For many years, Vera and her husband Frank had maintained an aviary, totaling about 250 birds at the time of the fire. The birds, many of them elderly or handicapped, were kept in a large network of enclosures alongside their mobile home.
For Frank Barrozo, a Vietnam war veteran, the birds were therapeutic. Tears sprung into his eyes as he surveyed the twisted wire wreckage where they had lived. They had been his babies.
Like many in the area, the Barrozos had woken late Sunday to the smell of smoke, Vera Barrozo said. Just after midnight, an encroaching wall of flame inspired their immediate departure. Vera just had time to grab the dogs and her husband’s medicines and throw a couple of baskets of clean laundry in their car before they fled for their lives. Frank Barrozo was able to carry out six birds: three macaws and three conures.
But they’d had to leave the rest of the birds.
An exploding propane tank prevented a neighbor who was rescuing animals from getting to the birds. The Barrozos believe a dog that was left behind escaped, as they didn’t find any remains in the burned out kennel at the back of their property. They’d heard another neighbor was picking up strays after the fire, and are hoping the dog is with him.
On Saturday, they somberly combed the ashes, salvaging a few mementos – Frank’s wedding ring (but not Vera’s) a medal marking Vera’s 10-year anniversary of working at Walmart, some tea cups from a set of vintage china, amazingly unbroken, and other bits and pieces.
Even as the Barrozo family mourn the loss of the birds and many treasured antiques and personal possessions, they have pressing concerns. Having been unable to purchase insurance on their aged mobile home, their housing prospects are murky.
But they are grateful that their whole family survive the fire.
“We just have to take it a day at a time, be grateful for family and friends, keep in touch and just stick together and work together and we’ll make it through,” Vera said.