ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – With the destruction brought on by the Mesquite Heat fire, many families lost priceless items to the flames. That’s why groups from the Texas Baptist Men, Boots on the Ground and Men of Nehemiah searched through the rubble to find anything that survived.

Sifting through the ash is like panning for gold, for victims who lost everything in the Mesquite Heat fires, hoping and praying that anything survived through the days long fire.

Anything from guns to jewelry, or forgotten kids toys, can bring some glimmer of hope to the fire victims who now sit with nothing.

“It’s all they have left, and it’s what they’re hanging onto,” said Terry Beal, Unit Leader with the Texas Baptist Men’s recovery team. “We’re looking for anything that is important to them, but it’s all important to them, because its all they had.” 

Beal brought a team of 35 to Hidden Valley and worked Tuesday towards cleanup and removal of rubble left of the houses burned in the neighborhood. They began working on three, with a total of 17 homes left to clean up this week.

Teams also sifted through ash by hand to recover mementos that survived the fire. With the fire more contained, volunteer teams can safely serve. Their teams also brought in chaplains, whom provide counselling and prayer to those experiencing severe trauma.

“When we get through, like you see behind us, this- that fireplace and the foundation’ll be gone,” Beal said. “It’ll be clean, it’ll be smooth ground. They can start over.”

It was a calling for volunteers Mark Reeder and Marion Smith. For Reeder, he said it was his faith that led him to join in 2006, but for Smith, she joined for a very different reason.

“These are not strangers to me, it’s a community… These are my neighbors,” Smith said.

Smith, a former nurse, said she joined in 2014 because of her calling by God to help serve and heal broken people, both physically and emotionally. However, the Mesquite Heat fires hit closer to home for her, quite literally.

She is a View-native and said most of the people impacted by the fires along Highway 277 have been to her home for dinner, were close friends or just friendly neighbors.

Covered in ash and soot, Reeder and Smith sifted through remains- in search of anything a homeowner might want or need.

Smith found a men’s wedding ring, as well as a jar of collected coins that melted together in the fire. While speaking with KTAB/KRBC, another volunteer presented them with a small, rusty trumpet.

“Of course, the pictures and stuff is destroyed, those things we cant save,” Reeder said. “But, we just don’t know what an item like this could mean to somebody, this could be the first trumpet for the child.” 

They said the small items are often forgotten in a mad scramble to evacuate their homes, leaving many to question what they grabbed and what they could not. However, Smith said it makes it all worth it to present them with even a minute item from their old home and embrace in a hug.

“To give someone a hug, you know, to make them feel that someone loves them,” Smith explained. “That’s the most important thing.”

Beal said for anyone who still needs assistance or would like to apply for them to come and clean up their home side, they can go to Beltway Park Church South and find more information and help there.