By Steve Large

PARADISE (CBS13) — A Paradise woman whose home was destroyed in the Camp Fire is rejoicing after she went back to search through the debris for a precious family heirloom, and found it.

“It shines and it sparkles, and the outside is blackened and charred,” Paradise evacuee Heather Thornewood said.

The charred surface has this family cherishing the heirloom even more now. The heirloom is a diamond ring that has been passed down in her family for more than 100 years. The jewelry was first purchased by her great-great-grandfather.

“That’s amazing that we were able to find it again,” Thornewood said.

Thornewood and her husband Larry Willis also used the ring for their wedding vows. They went back to search for it when the Paradise evacuation was lifted on Saturday.

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“We got up there and it was like ‘oh my goodness,’ this is going to be hard,” Thornewood said.

“I didn’t expect such a level of devastation,” Willis said.

Photos show their destroyed home burned to the ground. The pair escaped the Camp Fire with their two daughters and pets. Of all their possessions inside the burned home, the family ring was the only item they were desperate to find.

“Legitimately, pretty much everything else can be replaced, but the ring wasn’t, the ring’s not replaceable,” Thornewood said.

Starting their search near the area they believed the ring’s jewelry box would have been located, the family spent two days searching through the mucky rain-soaked ash. Then, Thornewood found something. A chunk of debris with pieces of silver attached to it.

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“And all of a sudden, this diamond just sparkles, and it was like (gasp) oh my gosh,” Thornewood said. “It took my breath away. And tears of joy, and just this moment of like ‘I found it!’”

Within the ashes of her destroyed home was her family’s diamond ring. The painstaking search had paid off.

“That is perseverance,” Willis said. “Carry on, don’t let things stop you.”

A Paradise family who lost their home found a treasured piece of history.

“It’s tarnished, it’s blackened,” Thornewood said. “But it’s still got its life there.”

This diamond ring can now also serve as this family’s Camp Fire survival story for generations to come.


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