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Camp Fire survivors spend Christmas away from home at Pismo Beach Hotel

One family spent Christmas away from home after surviving the Camp Fire. The mother and daughter duo celebrated the holidays in a Pismo Beach hotel.

“It’s different, heartbreakingly different,” Gloria Wenter-Smith described her Christmas this year.

The Shell Beach native and her mother, Dorothy Muller-Byers, have been staying at Inn at the Pier for the past week; the hotel offered the Camp Fire survivors a discounted rate.

“They gave us a beautiful room, overlooking the ocean,” Muller-Byers described.

“[In Paradise], there are no places for us to stay,” Wenter-Smith added.

The Butte County residents narrowly escaped the deadly blaze that left most of Paradise in ashes.

“They had just happened to leave the day before,” a family friend, Anita Wiwchar explained.

Their house is still standing, but they can’t get back yet.

“I’ve been there for 27 years,” Muller-Byers said.

“It’s a retirement community that is now gone,” her daughter somberly added.

After evacuating, the pair reached out Wiwchar, who helped them get the room at Inn at the Pier.

“I have a girlfriend, Whitney, and she’s an employee here,” the Shell Beach neighbor said.

The family explained it would have been otherwise challenging to book elsewhere, especially during the holidays.

Wenter-Smith said they were also worried because her mother is on dialysis.

“So we needed to find a facility where they could accommodate her and that’s how we ended up back here in Pismo Beach,” she said.

“They just can’t take the chance of not being able to get through Paradise to get to Chico for the dialysis,” the family friend continued.

The newly displaced Camp Fire victims said they miss home, but also dread returning in a sense.

“It’s devastating,” Wenter-Smith confessed. “The hard part for us is going back and trying to rebuild the whole community. I mean, businesses, homes…it’s just sad.”

“In many ways, [I] hate going back. I hate to face it,” her mother agreed.

But the women said they were grateful for what they have.

“We’re survivors. We’ll get through this,” Wenter-Smith said.

And they’re grateful for the help and support they’ve received.

“You know, they’re special people to me,” Wiwchar said.

To date, the Camp Fire has claimed more than 80 lives; 10 people are still missing.

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