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Central Coast Classic: Hancock College softball star Zaiden Bakke's family was jolted by 2018 Camp Fire
Central Coast Classic

Central Coast Classic: Hancock College softball star Zaiden Bakke's family was jolted by 2018 Camp Fire

A few weeks after the deadliest fire in the United States in a century, and the deadliest in California history, the 2018 Camp Fire, Hancock College sophomore Zaiden Bakke drove down what had been a bustling street in the devastated community of Paradise.

"It was like a fake movie set," Bakke, a power-hitting first baseman for the Hancock College softball team, said in a 2019 interview.

"It was like a ghost town," when Bakke drove through what was left of Paradise during the 2019 Hancock winter break.

Bakke described an eerie scene in which, "There was a car lot on the side of the road. Half the cars were burned. Half of them, where the fire had stopped, weren't.

"There was a restaurant that was completely burned down. Chairs, which were chained outside, weren't touched."

The Camp Fire broke out on Nov. 8 of 2018. It was fully contained 17 days later.

The fire destroyed 18,804 structures and killed 86 civilians. Twelve civilians and five firefighters suffered non-fatal injuries.

Zaiden Bakke said during a 2019 interview that none of her family members, physically anyway, were harmed in the fire.

"They've adjusted as time has gone on," she said. "After the fire broke out, it was a lot to take in at first.

"Some of the pets made it. Some of them didn't."

Baake graduated from Chico Pleasant Valley High School. She said her grandparents, her father and stepmother, Samantha Bakke, had since moved to this area after the Camp Fire.

"My dad is an electrician," Zaiden Bakke said in early 2019. "My mother was a private-client banker at Wells Fargo in Chico, and she still has clients there."

Zaiden Bakke said that one of her sets of aunts and uncles was renting a house in Chico after the fire. She said she was unsure of her other aunt and uncle's living arrangements.

She said then that the house of her stepfather, Jeremy Rhoads, a banker in Paradise, withstood the Camp Fire.

"Withstood," in a way, anyway.

"Clients who had lost their homes would come up to him and say, 'It's a good thing your house is still standing,'" Zaiden Bakke said in the interview.

"He'd say, 'Is it? There's ash everywhere. I can't drink the water. I wish my house had burned down so I could just start over.'

"People whose houses survived didn't have any neighbors. All their neighbors' houses burned down."

When she first heard about the fire, "All of my family was in Chico and I was stuck alone down here," Zaiden Bakke said.

She said then that two of her siblings were living with her father and stepmother, and two more were living with her stepfather and mother, Jessica Miley.

Bakke showed a scene on her cell phone of the air over Chico at one stage of the Camp Fire. The scene looked like a sunset but, "This was during the day," she said.

When her grandparents lost their home, Bakke said, much more than the structure was gone.

"Our family always spent Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter there," Bakke said during the interview.  "It didn't even feel like Christmas last year."

Bakke showed a before-and-after display on her cell phone. The "before" picture showed a picturesque, snow-covered two-story home, the structure her grand parents' home once was.

The 'after' picture showed an empty space where the house once stood.

Bakke hit .374 with 23 RBIs for Hancock in 2019, second-best on the team in both categories. She was selected to the 2018 All-Southern California Team.

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Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.

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