We all use baseball for different things. For some of us it’s a job, others it’s pleasure, fandom, or publicity, but for a certain few it’s a way to forget what is going on in the real world, even if it’s just for 9 innings. You can flip on the TV, turn on the radio, or go to the ballpark and sit in the bleachers, and completely forget that there is a world just outside the friendly confines that you’ll inevitably have to go back to. But just for those 9 innings you can forget everything except what is going on in front of you.
Meet Keith Sloan (right) and his girlfriend Joriel Peabody (left). You might recognize them from seeing their picture(shown below) on multiple social media sites during Opening Day. Their sign reads “Lost everything in the Camp Fire except my faith in the Angels.” “I don’t know what made us make the sign.” Keith said, “The idea just popped into our head and we were like, why not?”
The Camp Fire, which was named after Camp Creek Road in Butte County, broke out on November 8th, 2018. The county of Butte is just 90 miles north of the capital of California, Sacramento. “It was warm and the sky was really dark orange in color,” Keith explained. The day the Camp Fire started it grew nearly 20,000 acres because of the warm, dry weather and Jarbo winds, which are strong winds that come from the east of Butte.
Within hours of what was soon going to be one of the worst fires the United States has seen, Keith and Joriel, who lived in Paradise, found themselves being woken up to pandemonium. They had just minutes to evacuate from their homes, leaving irreplaceable memories behind and not knowing if they would ever see their houses again. “From waking up, to getting everything in the car to leave, I had about 10 minutes to grab as much stuff as I could.” Even after they evacuated their houses, they weren’t out of trouble yet, as hundreds of thousands of people in cars, trucks, and RVs were fleeing from the same growing inferno. Roads out of the city became parking lots, and streets that were lined with trees soon became tunnels of fire. They were stuck in a fire storm. Trees and power lines fell, and some people even had to leave their cars because as temperatures became unbearable, their cars became un-drivable. Luckily, both the Sloan’s and Peabody’s were able to make it to safety. “Once we got out of town, looking back all I could see was a huge black smoke cloud, it was a crazy experience to go through.”
Now out of any fire danger, Keith and his family arrived at a family friend’s house about 20 miles west of the raging fire in Chico. Family and friends at the house watched nervously for days, as they were able to watch what was going on with the fire on TV and get updates through Facebook. For days they had no idea about their houses as they waited, cautiously optimistic that their house would still be standing. Unfortunately, the inevitable happened, “We found out about our house a couple days after, because one of our friends was working up there and he drove by the house for us.”
They didn’t start letting people back into the town of Paradise for a few weeks after the fire had stopped. Paradise looked like a scene from a movie. Whole neighborhoods had been decimated like a bomb had been dropped on it. For Keith and Joriel, it was a long and eerie drive back. “The whole drive back to Paradise we were nervous. When we pulled into our driveway I was speechless. It’s crazy to just see the house and everything around it completely gone.”
After all was said and done, the Camp Fire would burn 153,336 acres, almost 240 square miles, and took 85 lives over the two and a half weeks it burned. It destroyed 18,804 structures, and caused upwards of $16.5 billion in damage. It took the most lives and destroyed the most structures for a wild fire in California state history.
Keith grew up just a few miles from Angel Stadium, in nearby Westminster until he was 12, when he and his family moved to Paradise. “My favorite player growing up had to be Vladimir Guerrero. He was just so fun to watch and made every game exciting.” Now Keith explains that, “My favorite player now to watch is obviously Mike Trout. He’s one of the best baseball players to play the game and just seeing the love and passion he has for the game is incredible.” He credits his fandom of Angels baseball and getting into baseball in general to his grandfather, who was a huge fan of the Halos as well. Though him and his grandfather didn’t go to a lot of games, Keith remembers sitting in the garage listening to the games on the radio as grandfather would work on projects.
Joriel had grown up just north of Sacramento, in the small town called Oroville, which is well known for the Oroville Dam. She had just moved to Paradise no more than a year before the devastating fire. Baseball has always been a part of her life, and whenever her and Keith see the Angels on the schedule to play the Oakland A’s they try to make the nearly 3 hour drive to see the Halos play.
Keith and Joriel had March 28th, 2019 (Opening Day) marked on their calendars ever since the Angels schedule came out back in August. Even through there were tough times a few months later in November, it wouldn’t hamper their new tradition as Keith explains that, “I’ve actually attended the last 3 opening week series because the Angels have played Oakland every time. It’s kind of a tradition I’ve started and I love it.”
Since the fire, Keith and Joriel, alongside Keith’s brother and his girlfriend, have bought a house in Chico, California, which is less than 20 miles away from the city of Paradise.
The amount of support in the Angels Baseball community was also great since they made the sign. Multiple fans, along with Angels VP of Communications Tim Mead and play-by-play announcer Jose Mota all got in contact with Keith and Joriel about ways that they could help out. You can follow Keith and Joriel on twitter @ChiefKeith522, and @Jorieleep.