Martin Prevosto stands amid the burnt ruins of the family complex in Bonita Vista. The family found some pottery and metal art objects saved, but many were fused by the intense heat of the fire into something unrecognizable. Sasha Fisher plans to use the metal and fused pieces to make a collage, a memorial to what they had and a reminder of their decision to rebuild. Photo by Marshall Smith
Martin Prevosto and Sasha Fisher were both working on Monday, July 15, when the disastrous Mountain Fire started in Mountain Center. Prevosto, a contractor and carpenter, was helping pour a foundation in Pine Cove and Fisher was at her job at Lady of the Lake in Idyllwild.

Shortly before 2 p.m. a friend called Prevosto from the Transfer Station on Saunders Meadow Road and alerted him to the rapidly expanding fire. He told him it appeared to have already jumped Highway 243 and was heading in the direction of Prevosto and Fisher’s home in the Bonita Vista community at the end of Apple Canyon Road. At the home, corral and eight outbuildings were two horses, one indoor and two outdoor cats, the majority of Prevosto’s tools and all of the personal possessions of the couple, and their children, and the stored furniture and valuables of Prevosto’s parents.

Shortly after 2 p.m. Prevosto met Fisher in Idyllwild and they tried reaching their home via highways 243 and 74. First responders had already closed Highway 74. They then drove through Banning to Palm Desert and back up Highway 74. “We made it to Apple Canyon and our road but it was already closed by fire personnel,” said Fisher. They then went to the parking lot of Lake Hemet Market to await further developments. “We slept in our truck,” said Prevosto. “We could see the flames from the parking lot, 200 to 300 feet high in the direction of our home.” The next day, late afternoon Tuesday, Bonita Vista neighbors gathered at the beginning of their road, having been informed by officials that one resident would be conducted in by fire personnel to assess damage.

“He returned and walked up to us crying,” said Prevosto. “He held us and said, ‘Everything’s gone.’” The couple did not learn until the next day that their horses were safe. “Someone, we don’t know who, cut a section of the chain link fence between our land and our neighbor’s largely green grass, golf course-like property,” said Prevosto. The horses went through the fence and sheltered on the neighbor’s patio area. They were singed but safe. “It was a blessing,” said Fisher. “We broke down when we heard.” The cats, including their indoor Siamese, Suki, did not make it.

Prevosto, Fisher and children then evacuated to Tahquitz Pines Conference Center in Idyllwild, where Prevosto’s son works. That was Tuesday. Wednesday afternoon, Fern Valley and Idyllwild residents were ordered to evacuate. The assembled Prevosto/Fisher clan, now including Prevosto’s son and girlfriend, headed to Lake Hemet where they had been offered a fifth-wheel trailer to stay in by a resident couple, Nancy and Burt Eimer. Before leaving Tahquitz Pines, Fisher looked out at Idyllwild and offered a prayer, “If our house is what we had to sacrifice for the community to survive, then let it be this.”

The Bonita Vista community setting is idyllic, tucked in a valley among silent and sheltering hills and sweet-smelling trees. The community has few homes and neighbors are close-knit.

On late Sunday afternoon, July 28, Prevosto and Fisher were upbeat. They said they’d rebuild. They had insurance, but, according to Prevosto, the other Bonita Vista residents did not. The family is looking for a three-bedroom home in Idyllwild or Pine Cove to lease for a year. They’re hoping to find something in the $1,200-a-month range.

“There has been such tremendous support and there are so many people to thank,” said Prevosto: “The Eimers for housing us, who didn’t even know us but overheard us talking in the [Lake Hemet Market] parking lot, and so many more who have cared for us and our horses.”

Prevosto estimates his now incinerated tools, from which he earns his living, are valued at $50,000 to $60,000. But, looking out over his land, he smiled. “It’ll come back,” he said. “It will take time, but it will come back.”

Prevosto and Fisher emphasized that they had home fire insurance and most of the other Bonita Vista residents did not. “Those are the folks that really need help now,” he said.

Anyone interested in assisting the family should call Sasha at (951) 692-0785. Getting settled in a home in the Idyllwild area is important since one of their children will be returning to Idyllwild School in August.