Retired school bus driver's Riverside home destroyed in fire from homeless encampment

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Saturday, September 23, 2023
Retired school bus driver's SoCal home destroyed in encampment fire
A retired school bus driver lost her Riverside home in a fire that stemmed from a homeless encampment. She's still trying to find ways to recover.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- At 68 years old, Christina Rangel is starting over after a fire destroyed her home.

"I retired. I thought I was going to enjoy my house and go from there," said Rangel.

This past January, Rangel retired after nearly two decades of driving a school bus for special needs children. She planned to continue updating her Riverside bungalow that she bought 15 years ago, but that all changed on Aug. 30.

A wind-driven fire broke out behind her home between two sound walls along the 60 Freeway.

"The fire was back there. I never thought it would be at my house," she said.

Her security camera captured her running into her home to save her two dogs - despite a warning from a police officer evacuating the area.

"He kept yelling 'Just leave them, just leave them' and I said I can't... I grabbed them and he kept telling me to go, go, go," she recalled.

Firefighters were unable to save Rangel's home. The new sliding glass door she had installed is now just a piece of twisted metal with the glass shattered on the ground. The two new windows are boarded up and her once cozy living room was blackened and gutted by the flames.

Rangel said it was her neighbor who broke the news that she lost everything.

"I said how is my house, he says its gone, your house is gone, too. So, I couldn't handle it anymore," said Rangel through tears.

Riverside arson investigators determined the fire originated from a homeless encampment and that embers from the fire set Rangel's home ablaze.

"Just want somebody to do my house, just put me back to were I was," said Rangel. "From what I hear, we aren't getting enough."

Despite having insurance, it won't be enough to rebuild Rangel's 850-square foot two-bedroom bungalow. Her daughter set up a GoFundMe page in the hopes it will help her mom have enough to rebuild.

"In the beginning, we didn't want to make a GoFundMe. We thought maybe the insurance would be enough, but then now that we're interviewing and getting estimates we're thinking we might not have enough," said Lorenza Rachel Devora, Rangel's daughter.

For now, Rangel is waiting for the day she can go home again.