It happens countless times on roads across America: a vehicle gets a flat tire, usually just a temporary inconvenience.
The Carr Fire ignited on July 23 near Redding after a trailer got a flat tire and its rim scraped the asphalt. The sparks that shot out from that minor incident started what is now the eighth-largest wildfire in state history.
The fire blazed a fiery path along Highway 299, lighting up dry brush and residential areas, and killing at least seven people.
When Redding resident Rachel Pilli read about the tire failure, she decided to reach out to the trailer’s owners with a message of compassion. She posted a message on social media asking if anyone else wants to show their support. About 100 letters poured in – and they’re still coming.
“I was thinking if I could send a card, maybe my friends would also send a card,” Pilli told CNN affiliate KRCR.
Her plea for a supportive message was shared on a Facebook page called Carr Fire Stories, where the page’s administrator said more than 300 people responded.
“We had firefighters out there fighting the fire send notes, we’ve had counselors saying they would be willing to meet with the couple, we’ve had people who’ve lost everything and they are even saying it’s not your fault,” Seth said.
Authorities have not identified the owners of the trailer.
In Redding, all that’s left of some neighborhoods are piles of ash, concrete and charred cars. Firefighters are still battling the fire, which has scorched 211,019 acres and was 65% contained early Wednesday.
The community has also showed appreciation to firefighters and emergency personnel by offering them food, water, even free haircuts. Some have posted handwritten signs all over the city. “Best first responders ever! Our heroes,” one sign reads.
California has already spent a quarter of its firefighting budget for the year just in July.
Fire officials have issued a grim prediction, warning that massive blazes will cost the state billions of dollars over the next decade.