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‘A pile of ashes’ – Balch Springs residents return to what’s left of their homes after fire

The Gomez family home was completely destroyed in the fire that swept through at least 20 homes in Balch Springs, Texas.
Pablo Arauz Peña
The Gomez family's home was completely destroyed in the fire that swept through at least 20 homes in Balch Springs, Texas on July 25.

Families in the North Texas suburb are picking up the pieces after a brush fire burned through at least 20 homes on Monday.

Local organizations are taking donations to help the families impacted by the July 25 fire including Sharing Life in Mesquite and the City of Balch Springs.

Late Tuesday morning, Mitch Ryan arrived at what was left of his home after a brush fire swept through the area the day before. It’s the house where his granddaughter took her first steps and had her first birthday party.

“We've had first-time memories that were lifetime memories we've had here,” Ryan said. “It's just so upsetting to know that, you know, we got to leave all that....”

Ryan and his family were not at home when the fire swept through Balch Springs. His two dogs were in the house, but a nearby friend saved them.

Ryan assessed the damage and collected what was left of his home in 100-degree heat. Among the few things that his family was able to salvage were several pairs of shoes, his wife Rachel’s wedding dress and epilepsy medications.

Now, the Ryan family has to start over again.

"God has a bigger plan for us,” Ryan said.

Ryan’s neighbor, Andre Camp was in shock and disbelief as his home of 16 years was engulfed in a cloud of smoke and fire on Monday.

“Family memories, years and years of hard work, you know, in a pile of ashes basically,” Camp said.

Camp said his family is staying with his mom while he starts to file insurance claims. He's thankful that no one was hurt and that his family is safe.

A couple of houses down, Wilfredo Gomez took in what was left of his family's home of 14 years. All that remained after the fire was the front structure and a slumped-over garage door.

"For it to be gone, like their life savings was in there," Gomez said. "Like, man, all our clothes, their anniversaries, wedding, everything – family pictures. Everything is gone."

Gomez said his brother was about to take a shower when the fire approached, and he narrowly escaped. He says it will take a long time for his family to recover from these losses.

“I hope we all get back on our feet and how we were, you know," he said. "It just brings you back. It just brought us back 20 years."

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Pablo Arauz Peña is the Growth and Infrastructure Reporter for KERA News.