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White Fire victim loses vehicle and belongings

Even seeing his life belongings go up in flames, at age 83, Billy Meng is not going down because of the White Fire in the Santa Ynez Valley.

His camper trailer was in the Sage Hill campground when flames shot up the riverbed in the first few minutes of the destructive fire Monday afternoon.

The fire was up in the oak trees above his vehicle, and showering the area with embers. “I was surrounded,” said Meng. “I just got in my truck and blasted through.” But his camper truck was left to burn in eye of the fast moving fire.

Meng was given support by others in the Paradise Road camping community. Shelly Howe and Chris Corney, are hosts for campers, and they too were forced to evacuate with very little warning.

They hope community donations or a fundraiser can help Meng get a new place to stay. He was talking about his ordeal wearing a hoodie and the same pair of shoes he had on when he escaped the flames.

Meng is well known in the canyon for his maintenance and cleaning services at the sites.

In his youth Meng was a noted long board surfer and a fisherman. His picture hangs on the wall of a local McDonald’s in a surfing photo display.

For Howe, driving through the fire zone to flee the flames, was “terrifying,” she says. ” It was like a war zone. I have never seen anything like it.”

Corney told other campers to evacuate, but some did not move quickly and he could no longer wait, so he pulled out and powered through the smokey canyon. At times they could barely see in front of their hood.

No one was hurt.

Two vehicles and one U.S. Forest Service structure went down in flames.

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