Brad Williams, right, a member of the Modoc County Sheriff’s Posse and Modoc Sheriff Mike Poindexter pose with a family heirloom recovered from the Camp Fire. Photos submitted

Precious family heirloom survives devastating Camp Fire inferno

The Modoc County Sheriff’s Posse was able to send seven members last week to help with recovery efforts at the Camp Fire in Paradise, California. Brad Williams stopped by the home of his brother and sister-in-law Don and Roxie Downie, to see if there was anything he could salvage for them.

This badge and two pistols were recovered by Brad Williams from his brother’s smoldering safe after the Camp Fire burned though the neighborhood. The badge and the pistols belonged to his grandfather, Archer Johnston, who received them when he retired as the sheriff of Victorville, California.

In the ashes, Williams was able to pull a smoldering safe from the rubble of his family’s home. A strike team from Lebanon, Oregon was ending their day, when Williams asked if they could help extinguish the safe to see if any of the contents inside survived.

“I am forever grateful to these Lebanon firefighters,” Williams said. “They pried the safe open, and I was almost afraid to look. Everything inside was burned except one small box. I grabbed the box not even thinking about it being hot and opened it up. It’s hard not to be emotional about it.

A badge and two pistols belonging to Archer Johnson, the former sheriff of Victorville, California, were recovered from a safe in a family home destroyed by the Camp Fire.couldn’t hold it back.”

The box contained two small pistols and a badge that his grandfather — Archer Johnston — was given when he retired as sheriff of Victorville, California.

Archer and Bealuh Johnston lived above the jail in the 1920s. There, they raised three children — Betty, Mary Ellen and Johnny.

“I remember stories of my grandma cooking for the inmates,” Williams said. “There was a door leading straight into the jail from their home. It’s hard to find the hope in a fire like this. The devastation is overwhelming. We now have another story to pass down in our family. How one small family heirloom survived the most devastating fire in California history.”

Modoc County Sheriff Mike Poindexter said, “Words cannot begin to express our appreciation for the Modoc County Sheriff’s Posse. A small rural sheriff’s office such as ours with a very meager budget could absolutely not manage to provide the services that we do for the good people of Modoc County without the dedication, help and support of the amazing and giving men and women volunteers that make up the best sheriff’s posse in the West. You will not find a more dedicated group anywhere. God Bless and thank each and every member for their countless hours, days, weeks, months and years of support to the Modoc County Sheriff’s Office, the people of Modoc County and the north state.”