'It's just devastating': Falcons FB Keith Smith's aunt and uncle cope with Dixie Fire loss

Larry and Beth Foster grabbed everything they could from their Greenville, California home earlier this month. They had dropped the horses and chickens off at a temporary place before returning home to salvage even more.
They would usually get some notice when they learned about evacuations. Although they suspected that an order would soon come, they had already loaded two trucksloads of clothing and documents and kept them safe. They thought they would have more time to collect.

They looked out of their windows and saw the mountain that sat in shadow of their home.

Beth Foster stated, "You could see flames coming down the mountain." "Quickly. They were coming quickly. They were coming quickly."

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Larry and Beth quickly gathered photos, old quilts and any important papers and got in their cars. They were not sure what to expect. They hoped that their house and nine-plus acres of land would survive the fire, even though they knew it was coming.

Fullback Keith Smith was thousands of miles away when his phone rang at the Atlanta Falcons training center. He began to learn what was happening by having a chat with his siblings and mother. The Dixie Fire was getting close. Evacuations were ordered.

He then learned that his aunt and uncle had lost their home.

"We lost Greenville tonight."

These were the words of Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), the congressman who represented Greenville in a Facebook video posted on Aug. 4. Larry and Beth, among his constituents, began to process the events even though they weren't sure if their property had survived.

The videos showed heartbreaking images. The small community was almost completely destroyed. This story made headlines around the globe, receiving coverage from the New York Times and Washington Post, as well as the BBC.

The fire had a devastating impact on the Fosters' daily lives, especially Larry's work as a plumber and contractor. Their long-term and immediate futures were unknown.

Larry stated that they had hope despite the dangers they were facing. They went their separate ways. Larry and Beth headed to Reno, Nevada while Beth and her boyfriend traveled to another place, and Beth and their son traveled to Chico to spend the night with their friends.

The reality hit when Larry's friend, who drove a fire truck, died. It was all gone, except for the brick chimney and roof.

Larry and Beth were sent photos by a friend.

Beth stated that it was extremely frightening and upsetting to not know. "Really, at first, you don't believe that your family is okay and that you are OK. That's the No. 1.

"The loss becomes more tangible as the time passes. Everything is gone, you know. Our home."

Larry was able to use the animals and two trucksloads of clothes and quilts as well as papers and tools for work when business picks up again. Their family was safe. All other information was destroyed or unknown.

Larry and Beth Foster were the aunt and uncle of Falcons fullback Keith Smith. They lost their home in California wildfires and then contracted COVID-19. Larry and Beth Foster

Larry and Beth ended their search two and a quarter hours away at Reno's hotel. For information, they reached out to Greenville friends. It was very sparse.

"The conversation is basically, "Have you ever heard anything?" No. Are you sure? Larry replied, "No." "... "...

Beth Smith's sister said that Smith's mother was going to Reno to help the Fosters. Larry was already feeling sick. Both Larry and Beth were soon sick upon arrival in Reno. They were left in isolation in the hotel.

But, help is on its way.

Smith and his family began to brainstorm ideas in the group text. Although they knew that insurance would help offset some of the losses suffered by Beth and Larry, claims can take time. They were unable to work because it was too far away.

Smith realized he was financially able to help others through his NFL player platform. Smith created a GoFundMe page and posted a plea to his 103,000 Instagram fans. He shared the story of his aunt and uncle with a link to Beth’s Venmo account. Smith donated $3,000 via Venmo to get started.

Smith said that you feel for them, and it's difficult to relate. "I don’t think you can really understand the feeling of losing your home, what, really, is your home, and things that are just not replaceable.

Smith claimed that he received information from other NFL players, including Maxx Crosby of the Raiders, who stated they had sent money. Beth stated that she was overwhelmed by the support. The Fosters don't know how much money has been donated but they estimate it to be around $8,000.

Beth stated, "It's just kinda overwhelming."

The Fosters didn't find out the extent of the damage two weeks later. Although they believe that their tractor survived, the Fosters know that their home, along with an RV trailer, and some of Larry's old cars, was destroyed.

They are still in Reno and feel better. They assume that almost everything has disappeared based on the few photos they have seen.

"I don't have words to express how terrible it feels. Beth paused to think and said, "You're never going back to that house." "You won't ever walk in that frontdoor."

"It's absolutely devastating. It can be replaced but it is still devastating. It is a lot."

The Fosters, like many others in Greenville don't know where the future is. The Fosters would love to rebuild but don't know when or how it will happen. They don't think about other options. They are still trying to cope with their losses but the impact is still raw.

Larry stated that they aren't looking to travel too far from Reno -- even to Southern California, where Smith's mom is -- as they want to be back close to their property.

They're not the only ones. They are aware of this. Greenville, Plumas County was home to 18,807 residents at the most recent census. Greenville was home to around 1,000 people.

It was small, and everyone knew everyone. It's gone.

Beth stated that "it's more tragic than losing our home, but also that we lost our entire community and that it was a small one." It's like seeing faces you might see in the grocery store, or anywhere else around town. You just kind of wonder how they are doing.

"Just really, the majority of people I have heard on Facebook say they want to rebuild Greenville, if it is possible. To rebuild the town.


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