anet and Don Clark are used to spending time apart. Janet's a big camper, and she used to leave their Paradise home for weeks at a time for camping trips. But that was before the deadliest wildfire in modern California history swept through and destroyed their town. And the two weeks they spent apart after the blaze were different.
When the Camp Fire broke out early Nov. 8, Janet and Don knew they needed to get out. They could see the flames from their home of more than 30 years, so they packed up some of their belongings in separate cars and left. But once they got on the road, traffic was gridlocked.
"People just got out of their cars," Don said. "[They] just left 'em right in the middle of the road and took off running."
So he turned his van around and went back to their property. The fire had already moved through the area, so he figured it was safe enough.
But Janet stayed, stuck in traffic. The smoke made the skyline dark and hard to see. At one point, a bicycle seat sticking out of her window caught on fire and she had to pull over, with propane tanks exploding and new flames erupting all around her.
After several hours, she was finally able to make it off the hill and into Chico.
Back in Paradise, their home was gone. It burned down within 10 minutes. But Don Clark stayed — for 14 days.
"I was not allowed to leave the property," Don said. That's because of laws requiring people to shelter in place.
Don said that he did sneak away, "but if I was caught off the property, they could force me to go to Chico. You can stay here as long as you don't leave. Once you leave, you're not allowed to come back."
Don said he initially spent his time walking around the neighborhood, clearing brush and trying to put out spot fires he saw near vacant properties. Some of his neighbors even credit him with saving their homes.
"I think I served a purpose being here," he said. "Because the firemen had to drive up and down the road, they didn't have time to go down these little roads and put out little fires that are still burning."
Even after the fires went out, Don still stayed. He took stock of their losses and organized some of the remnants of their old home.
There were also a number of animals left behind in the fire. Don took it upon himself to watch over and feed them. His neighbors have a cat, and he'd slide food under their door whenever he got a chance.
"I just did things I thought might be good," Don said. "There were horses and animals here for a while. I'd take them little things that I'd find, like an apple."
Don's a big blues fan and a seasoned musician. He and some other residents used to get together weekly for jam sessions. When the fire hit, Don was able to save a guitar, an amplifier and a generator. But he didn't have a cord to connect the instrument to the amp.
So firefighters brought him one, free of charge.
"The firemen were good to me," Don recalled. "They brought me food. They brought me water."
Don said he would spend his days sitting outside the rubble of his old home, playing guitar, watching first responders and PG&E crews drive by, all while coming to terms with his loss.
"So this is my situation," he said. "I could hate it — which I do — and I could be very mad, and I could get all uptight inside. Or I could just let it go. And I had two weeks to do that."
For Janet, who fled the fire zone, her experience was much different.
After her hours-long trip out of Paradise, Janet started sleeping off and on outside the Walmart parking lot. While Don had weeks stuck at the site coming to terms with his situation, Janet was seeing it for the first time.
"I can't even recognize my own house," said Janet. "I can't even recognize my own house."
On their lot were the remnants of what used to be a small house, several cars and a motor home that Janet would use for camping.
"I had five tents, five canopies, six heaters, seven lanterns," said Janet. All of it was destroyed in the blaze.
The old cars had Christmas presents hidden in them. All of them burned in the fire.
"Everything, I just keep going over it," said Janet. "Everything. And you'll think of something you haven't even thought about and just... boom. Gone."
The Clarks are famous for their yearly Christmas display. Colorful strings of lights and decorations, given to them by friends and family, would blanket the yard. When the fire hit, they'd already started putting up the first of their decorations.
The remnants of the display still circle the yard. Charred icicle lights and burned plastic Christmas trees.
"I had so many beautiful things," said Janet. "My house was such shit, but I had a lot of beautiful, beautiful things."
It's unclear what's next for the Clarks. The lot they live on is paid for, but they don't have insurance and Janet doesn't have a job.
"We can’t afford to really move somewhere else," said Janet. "Y’know, the land’s paid for. We gotta figure out ... we’re old, y’know, and that’s a lot of people. A lot of people are elderly. How do you start over and how long do you wait before you start over?"
And even if you start over, there are some things you can't rebuild. Like Janet's baseball memorabilia, which she'd been collecting for years.
But, sifting through the debris, Janet did find one thing that made her smile. Her San Francisco Giants mug.