(REDDING, Calif.) — Instead of anger and hate, the couple who accidentally started the deadly Carr Fire in Redding, California, has been getting flooded with messages of love and support from the very community devastated by the fire.
When Rachel Pilli heard that it was a couple whose trailer’s flat tire caused the fire igniting sparks she thought about how awful they must be feeling and started to pray for them.
While at church this past Sunday, Pilli overheard a firefighter she knew talking about the same couple, who happened to be his mother’s neighbors, so she asked him to bring them a card from her.
But when she got home that night she thought her friends might be interested in doing the same, so she posted her idea in a private Facebook group, comprised of mostly mothers.
“I personally know someone whose mom is a neighbor to the man whose trailer accident led to #CarrFire,” she wrote. “Many of us have been praying for this man (81 yr old). I learned that his wife is blaming herself for the #CarrFire, because she asked him to take the trailer in the first place. She has been crying day and night on her couch.”
She went on to write: “Do you think we can love on them and break off the shame/guilt that the enemy is trying to cover her in? Would you like to send her a card? If so, please drop it to me.”
When Pilli saw the overwhelming response she received, she was in tears.
“I was crying reading the comments, the comments were just filled with compassion and grace,” Pilli told ABC News.
Her friend, Hope Seth, who’s the founder of a Facebook page called “Carr Fire Stories,” re-posted the request asking for positive messages, and within a few days hundreds of comments poured in.
Seth, a mother of four kids, said she created to page to “collect, preserve and share our communities’ experiences from the fire,” and she wanted to use that platform to help garner comfort and support for the couple.
The post received over 600 comments, almost all of them sending the same message: It was an accident, and it wasn’t your fault.
People from all over the country showed their support and empathy, from those who have lived through other fires, to those who faced similar troubles with their RVs — even those who lost everything in the Carr Fire.
“I live in Redding and my family was affected by the fire in varying degrees,” one resident wrote. “I want you to know that I have not heard anyone blame you and we certainly do not.”
Another resident who lost their home also wrote a sweet comment.
“We would in no way blame those folks,” the resident wrote. “No one could have ever guessed it, no blame here, not at all.”
Seth printed out the comments and brought them along with a bouquet of flowers donated by her friend to Care Net Pregnancy Center where Pilli serves as the executive director.
“We had over 650 cards, printed messages and packages in less than 48 hours and more are still coming,” Pilli said.
The mail went out for delivery Wednesday and they’re hoping the couple will receive it by next week.
The Carr Fire started on July 23 and has burned more than 200,000 acres causing 7 deaths, including 3 firefighters, according to the National Park Service.
Officials have not yet released the names of the couple.
Though it has become one of the most destructive fires in California history, so many stories of kindness and courage similar to this one emerged from the tragedy, Seth said.
“It’s been beautiful to see hope and stories of heroes that other people don’t see,” Seth added.
In the wake of the fire, there have been heroes like the firefighters who left handwritten notes at residents’ homes and took care of their gardens and animals, Seth recalled.
Pilli, too, is in awe of their community’s reactions.
“It really demonstrates the compassion and kindness of our communities,” Pilli said.
“This fire has forced us to look into each other’s eyes,” Pilli added, “and discover the human kindness in us.”
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