After his house burned in the Carr Fire, Joe Furnari (center) got by with a lot of help from friends like Scott Marquis (left), who kept stuffing sausages despite the fire, and another friend, who styles himself sausage mixologist. Joe reports gaining twenty pounds stress-eating since the fire, as is evident in his pre-fire photo below.

“Sometimes,” said Joe Furnari, talking about how he’s been affected by the Carr Fire, “things look a lot better on the outside.” That’s certainly expressed in how Furnari Sausage continued to make sausage after last summer’s Carr Fire in Shasta County. When Joe and Patty’s home was destroyed on July 26, employee Scott Marquis kept grinding meat, mixing in spices and wine, and stuffing the sausages. Furnari calls Marquis “a life saver.”

The call for the Furnaris to evacuate came about 2:30 am, and after alerting the guests in their downstairs Bed and Breakfast unit and assuring their safety, they left their home on Milltown Road in Shasta Lake, which they had built twenty-nine years ago and where they had raised their two sons. In the neighborhood, just four of thirty houses survived.

“It’s a gut punch every time we go back,” says Furnari, seven months after the fire, “all the scarred and burnt trees.” Remaining where their house stood are only one palm tree and his olive tree. “We were a mess,” Furnari admits. “You know that expression, cry on a dime? That’s how it was.”

Yet Furnari finds meaning in other happenstance. The sheriff who reported their house burned brought them a statue of Buddha that Patty had on the deck. Still on its stand in the area where the couple created a tribute garden for friend and insurance agent Kathleen Leyden sits a plate decorated with an angel. Furnari credits Leyden for talking him into insuring his property for its higher-cost replacement value.

Gone, though, are all his percussion instruments— a pair of bongo drums, three congas, bells, chimes and other percussions toys; amps and mikes; and a 1908 Steinway piano—all the memorabilia from his kids’ childhoods; the couple’s entire art collection. The Furnaris, along with their son and daughter-in-law and their two kids, Patty’s mother, and two dogs, spent a month with friends. Furnari clicked off a long list of help the family received, from a volunteer church group, the United Way, Bethel Church, the Asphalt Cowboys, sometimes cash and gift cards he could pass to his uninsured neighbors. An artist friend in Hawaii has loaned them works from her collection.

Eventually the couple found a house to rent on the Sacramento River. There, he reports, “the moving water. . . all the heaviness flows off with it.” The Furnaris have bought a house on the river in the same neighborhood where they now rent. During and since the fire, Furnari Sausage has been able to keep its commitments to restaurants and retail stores, and this year, Joe will be back at the Shasta Growers Association Saturday farmers’ market at Redding City Hall selling sausage and prepared Italian entrees.

“It’s a new chapter,” says Furnari. “Change is always scary.” He knows they’ll buy only what they need and live less cluttered lives. He also reports asparagus breaking through the garden soil on his burned former homesite. “That’s pretty cool,” he notes.