The Valley Fire that raged through southern Lake County is now 97 percent contained. It has burned more than 76,000 acres and destroyed almost 2,000 structures, many residential, and killed four people. But as fire crews surround and extinguish the last of the flames, the people who live in those areas are returning home or to the charred streets where their homes once were and are trying to put things back together.
For children in the Middletown Unified School District, that means returning to school this week. Most of the county's schools reopened last Tuesday, but Middletown and Cobb were two of the areas hardest hit by the fire. On Monday morning, though, most students were back in class. Children were bused in to all but Cobb Elementary, which had to be set up in portable classrooms at the middle school instead.
At Middletown High School on Monday, only 25 of 480 students were absent. The school's principal, Bill Roderick, says the kids who made it seemed happy to be surrounded by friends and have some routine again.
"We had no tardies to first period. They were all in class," he says. "The only difference is, you know, at lunchtime it was a little quieter than normal. Lots of quiet conversations."