Wildfire Victim Searches For Strength To Rebuild - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Wildfire Victim Searches For Strength To Rebuild

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ALTA LAKE, Wash. - "John Neuneker Sr. built almost everything on his property with his own two hands, including the home in which he and his wife Laurie raised their four children.

“It was a family thing,” Neuneker told KHQ. “Not just my wife. My kids, all of us chipped in. We built the whole thing ourselves.”

Their log cabin was one of many things Neuneker lost in the Carlton Complex Fire. 

“This was my blood and sweat,” Neuneker said. “Now I don't have anything.”

Neuneker lost 3 structures, 3 campers and 3 trucks in the fire. But the toughest part for John is that this isn't the first loss he's experienced. 

“A year and 3 months ago I lost my wife to cancer,” John told KHQ. “She lived right here until she was too weak.”

Neuneker says the night of the fire he saw his wife.

“I looked up and my wife was standing there,” he said. “And I said, ‘Laurie?' Then I thought, ‘no, she's gone.' And I looked up again and she was. It was happy and then it was sad.”

Now he's stuck in a harsh reality. 

"All the people in the mountains for 50 miles that way and 50 miles that way and 50 miles that way,” Neuneker said. “They're all burnt out. Everybody's gone. Everybody's house is gone. All the timber is gone. The Methow is gone.”

John says he's actually one of the lucky ones. He has a shed that survived the fire. He's been living in it ever since.

“It was an act of god, that's all I can see,” he told KHQ.

He also has his most prized possession – an old Chevy truck he rebuilt by hand.

He says he's still searching for the strength to rebuild his home.

“I'm so stressed and depressed I don't know where to start,” he said. “I can build anything, but you need to have incentive.”

But Neuneker says he won't move because this is home. And the motivation? He'll find that in Laurie.

“She'd do it,” he said. “She'd bow her neck.”

“I'd like to build it right here. This is how special this is to me.”

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