A California couple who fled the raging wildfires burning through the Golden State returned home briefly amid mandatory evacuations to retrieve as many of their treasured belongings as possible.
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Lenay and Anthony Bavero were instructed by authorities Wednesday night to leave the Santa Paula home they've rented for two years, but they returned today after realizing they'd forgotten some irreplaceable keepsakes the first time around.
The most important item on the list was Lenay Bavero's wedding dress, she and her husband, told ABC News. Almost immediately after arriving home, Anthony Bavero headed straight to the shed where the dress was being stored.
"My main thing was the wedding dress," he said. "I don't really care about anything else."
Lenay Bavero, a mother of two and pregnant with a third, said the dress represented their "big milestone," adding that she wanted to have the option to pass it down to her children one day.
"We've been through so much," she said. "...Everything else doesn't matter. I want our kids to have our memories."
Anthony Bavero had tried as early as 3 a.m. Thursday to get to the house, but authorities wouldn't let them up the mountain, he said. As soon as their pastor and friend informed them later in the day that he was able to get into the neighborhood, they rushed home for a chance to grab more of their belongings.
In addition to the wedding dress, the couple, with assistance from their pastor, ran from room to room trying to grab everything of value, including important documents, some of their young children's artwork and mounds of clothes still on their hangers. Throughout the chaos, a fully decorated Christmas tree stood invitingly in the background.
Anthony Bavero was torn at first when making the decision to bring their 70-inch flatscreen, deciding at first that it wasn't going to fit in the car. He ultimately changed his mind, and carefully unplugged the cords before carrying it out, "since [they] had time." he said.
As the group stood outside to load the vehicles, the fire continued to creep closer to the home, burning just a few hundred yards from their driveway. Helicopters helping to extinguish the blaze could be heard overhead.
Santa Paula is in Ventura County, which is being threatened by the Thomas fire, one of six fires being fueled by Santa Ana winds as they blaze through California's arid landscape.
There are now 6 major wildfires burning in Southern California. #RyeFire #SkirballFire #CreekFire #ThomasFire #LilacFire and #LibertyFire all being fanned by continued #SantaAnaWinds and low humidity. Get information at: https://t.co/OtkdreDFEq pic.twitter.com/XG8WUVGNak— CAL FIRE PIO (@CALFIRE_PIO) December 7, 2017
The Thomas fire was the first to ignite and had burned through more than 96,000 acres by Thursday afternoon. It is currently threatening about 15,000 homes and has only been contained at 5 percent.
At least 88,000 residents have been evacuated due to the Thomas fire alone.
Anthony Bavero said the house was the first non-apartment the couple had lived in and was the first time that they "felt like it was a home."
"It's really, really pretty, and it's peaceful, and nobody bugs us," Lenay Bavero said, almost out of breath. "But, we always had that worry of fire, and now it's really here."
She added that she was "a little sad" to leave.
"There's nothing really we can do," she said. "We have everything we can take."