Cherry Valley siblings recall 'Apple Fire' closing in on their home

Two siblings in Cherry Valley were faced with trying to protect their home when the Apple Fire closed in on their property.

Eric Edman and Dana Rochat live on land owned by Riverside County Parks, and submitted a management plan to live on the property and maintain it.

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The house on the property is under construction, and the two of them have been working on it for over one year.  

"It means so much. We've put our life savings into this so we could live here and provide a service as a nonprofit to the community," said Rochat.

However, the house and property were close to being destroyed by the fire. Edman and Rochat fought the fire for hours by themselves with a hose.

"We were hosing everything down, trying to stay alive, tried to save the tree and the house because if that would have gone it would have been a sad day," said Edman.

Rochat said she called the Fire Department, and crews arrived within an hour to battle the flames. The firefighters worked through the rough terrain and heat to save their property.

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"At one point when the fire came roaring up here, 30-foot flames, I said I can't watch," said Rochat. They [firefighters] saved the tree, saved the house. We're very blessed definitely to be here and to have so many crews taking care of us," said Rochat.

The firefighters have stayed on the property to watch for hot spots, and Edman and Rochat said they are grateful to them.

"A lot of prayers, and they were answered," said Edman.

Rochat said the firefighters warned them about evacuating at one point, and they were prepared to do so but wanted to stay to help the firefighters navigate the unfamiliar land.

"We know the foothills and the land we wanted to be helpful so we stayed out of their way with their permission," said Rochat.

Rochat said their mother lives in the area, but she was also evacuated so they reached out to friends about staying with them in case their property burned.

Firefighters are dealing with rugged terrain, hot weather, and Covid-19 restrictions while fighting the flames.

"The steep terrain, it makes it a very difficult firefight for us," said Richard Cordova, a CAL FIRE Fire Captain.

Cordova said there are restrictions in place at their Command Center where firefighters gather.

"We have to wear masks. We have to make sure to tell the firefighters when they come into this area that they're washing their hands, they're cleaning up," he said.

However, there isn't a difference on the fire lines.

"In the fire service, we always try to what's called keep your dime, that's keeping 10 feet away from each other due to safety factors so we pretty much have that in place already on the fire line," he said.

Cordova said the terrain has been a challenge for firefighters battling the Apple Fire because they've had to hike to certain areas where vehicles cannot travel.