LOWER LAKE, Calif. (KTVU) - School starts Tuesday for students in Lower Lake- late because of the Clayton Fire- and missing some key sports equipment.
"Yeah, I did bring all the uniforms home on Friday to wash everything, and pack them in the bags, " smiled soccer coach Sharon Murray ruefully.
How could she know that the next day, the fire would start, and by Sunday, it would explode, taking her house and almost 200 others.
This week, the Trojan girls soccer team was to have its first game, but all of their uniforms burned when Murray's house did.
"Everybody says, 'You need to worry about yourself,' but I'm like 'I've got twenty girls who need to play!" added Murray.
More than 900 students attend Lower Lake High School, and although properties alongside the school burned to the ground, fire crews managed to defend the campus.
"The field absolutely stopped the fire and became a firebreak, " explained Tim Biasotti, a teacher, coach and member of the Sports Boosters organization.
Only an outbuilding was lost, but it contained all of the softball gear for junior high and high school softball, a blow to another program.
"This is a small community and sports mean everything to these kids," observed Biasotti.
"This is where they all come together and it's their way out for some of them actually, by helping them go to college."
The soccer uniforms will cost about $6,000 to replace, the softball equipment exceeds $24,000.
A half dozen football sleds also burned on the athletic fields, each worth about $5,000, but Trojan football is intact, because most equipment was stored elsewhere. In fact, Homecoming will be held September 9th, as scheduled.
"It's important not to reschedule because we want to get back to our regular routine," said Donna Becnel,
Superintendent of the Konocti Unified School District.
"It's really grounding for the kids. and that's what we all want," Becnel told KTVU.
A few dozen students, staff, and faculty are believed to have lost homes.
Administrators say sports provide healing and community.
"With sports, you also involve leadership kids and band kids, and some of those students lost instruments," said Lower Lake High School Principal Jessica Taliaferro. "Students want to come back, and they're ready to come back to school."
The softball coach hopes his athletes will have replacement uniforms and equipment well before spring.
"We lost balls, bats, pitching machines, catching gear, " itemized Coach Chris Emberson, "and while the loss of homes is more important than softball equipment, it does mean a lot to these young ladies, who work their butts off to fund-raise."
Two teen softball players, who are cousins, lost everything they owned when their family home burned, and say they don't want to sacrifice their season too.
"Not having any gear is really devastating because it's like our second home, it's our escape," Senior Jolean Scarborough told KTVU, "and so I can't wait to go back to school, and get back in a normal routine and start playing sports again."
Arriving students will find banners strung across the front of the high school, with thank you messages for them to sign.
The posters express gratitude to firefighters and other first responders, donors, and charitable organizations.
Donations to help Lower Lake sports programs recover can be sent by check to : LLHS Boosters 9430 Lake Street Lower Lake, CA 95457. You can also find more information on the school's Facebook page.