On the morning of November 8, 2018, as Shane Murray drove from his new home in Paradise to work in Oroville, he looked into his rear-view mirror and saw a plume of smoke billowing against an otherwise azure sky.
By the time he told his boss he needed to return home to evacuate – that the Camp fire was headed toward his place – the sky had turned dark. He, his brother Scott, and their families worked feverishly to get as much as possible out of the home Shane’s family had lived in for only a month.
“I’d made one mortgage payment,” Shane said.
They loaded up the most vital things: valuable documents, photos, clothing (such as his wife’s wedding dress and his military uniforms), and anything else they could cram into their vehicles.
“I drove away with a car full of kids and a bunch of (Shane’s families’) stuff,” said Alainna Murray, Scott’s wife.
While they were helping Shane’s family evacuate, the fire fanned out in the direction of Scott’s home, a few miles away. Scott tried to go there to retrieve whatever he could, but officials already had closed the access roads. A friend rescued their dog, Max, and pulled the top drawer of their filing cabinet containing all of their vital papers, said Alainna. Her parents also lost their home in Paradise. Gone was an antique pool table that was supposed to be Scott’s when they found a place for it in their home.
Just like that – in a short few hours– their homes and much of everything they owned vanished into piles of ash and debris. Yet, they felt fortunate. They all were safe from a fire that ultimately claimed 86 lives. It destroyed nearly 19,000 homes, businesses, and other structures.
The Murrays – brothers by birth, brothers in arms as U.S. military veterans – faced the long process of rebuilding. Since both have CalVet loans eases the process, as it has for veterans since its inception 99 years ago.
“Their story is a compelling one,” said CalVet Secretary Vito Imbasciani MD. “Brothers, veterans, and fire victims. The Murrays epitomize the veterans we help with our CalVet Home Loans Program. I am gratified that they placed their trust in us, as we did in them, when they bought their homes. We are here for them as they rebuild.”
Born in Australia, the Murrays moved to California as teens, when their mom remarried a man who lives in Paradise. They grew up and attended local schools in Paradise. Brothers by nature, they became brothers in arms by enlisted in the military: Shane, 34, was in the U.S. Army and serviced Black Hawk helicopters while deployed to Iraq in 2008-2009; and Scott, 31, joined the Marine Corps and served in Afghanistan from 2011 into 2013.
After their military services ended, both returned to the area to raise their families, each financing his home through the California Department of Veterans Affairs’ Farm and Home Loan program now in its 99th year. In fact, Shane has had two CalVet loans, his first on a home in Portola.
“Renting was fine, but we (he and wife Kylie) had talked for years about getting a house,” Shane said. “My buddy in the Army got a CalVet loan. ßWe didn’t have the best credit. They (the Home Loans staff) went through step by step telling us what we’d need to do to improve our credit score, and we worked two years to get it.”
Shane convinced Scott to go with CalVet when he bought his first home in 2017.
“I used CalVet because he used it,” Scott said. “I tried through the VA (U.S. Veterans Administration) and was denied,” said Scott Murray, who has a 90 percent disability rating. “I went to CalVet and they approved us.”
In 2018, a year after a heavy winter in Portola, Shane and Kylie decided to move back to Paradise. They found a home Kylie loved and that he could upgrade. They bought it contingent upon their Portola home selling.
“The other house sold in two weeks,” Shane said. Within 90 days, both deals wrapped up, and they moved into the Paradise home.
Then came the Camp fire, and their respective dreams went up in smoke.
In March, and paying only a $250 deductible to replace the structure itself, Shane and his family moved into their rebuilt home on the same lot.
Scott, meanwhile, had problems with his out-of-area contractor who, Scott said, submitted rebuilding cost estimates to the insurance adjuster without even a design plan in hand.
“The insurer wasn’t buying that,” Scott said. “I got rid of the contractor.”
He hired the same one who rebuilt Shane’s home. Like Shane, he pays only the $250 deductible to rebuild the home itself. (Personal belongings fall under an additional policy.) His new contractor, from the Paradise area, is working well with the adjuster, Scott said. He was also able to acquire an adjoining lot. They hope to begin construction in July, moving in by February of March 2021.
“I’d recommend to all my veteran friends who live in California to definitely give CalVet a call,” Scott said.
“For the past 99 years, the Farm and Home Loan program has been there for California’s veterans and their families,” said Theresa Gunn, Deputy Secretary of the Home Loan Program. “Over time the program has had changes to improve the veteran experience. One of these changes resulted in the current insurance program the Murray’s are using to rebuild their homes. You can’t imagine the pride it gives not only me, but all the Home Loan staff, to be able to provide such a valuable, useful service to those who sacrificed for us.”
For more information on obtaining a CalVet home loan, CLICK HERE or call us directly at 866-653-2510, we are happy to help.