UWO athlete affected by California wildfires


Courtesy of Montero

Raiden Montero hugs his grandfather after the deadly California wildfires destroyed his home.

California native and UW Oshkosh freshman wrestler Raiden Montero had to watch his family’s homes burn down in the California wildfires last month.

Montero had been preparing to enter his first collegiate wrestling season when he first heard that the wildfires of Northern California had affected him and his family.

Montero was tasked with going through school and the start of his first wrestling season while his family in California lost homes.

In November, wildfires in California broke out but Montero said he initially saw a social media post warning residents of his hometown about the fire and did not take it too seriously.

“I saw it on Facebook and I thought [it was] something minor,” Montero said. “We’ve had disasters before. We’ve had fires; my city had to get evacuated because the spillway broke on the Oroville dam; there was fears that the whole dam would break so the entire city was evacuated. So it was like, ‘Oh, it’s a small wild fire; it’s going to burn down a little bit of the forest but nothing major.’”

Life moved on for Montero after seeing that post. His focus remained on school work and the wrestling team.

Montero said his concerns grew when he finally realized that the fire had spread to the place where his mother grew up.

“I noticed that the fire was in the city where my mom grew up,” Montero said. “That’s where mom, grandpa and my aunts and cousins live. I texted my mom right before Japanese class making sure everything was OK. She said everyone’s fine; they evacuated. That’s when I knew it was pretty bad, but I didn’t know it was super bad.”

Later on that evening, Montero received a call from his mother who had tragic news for the Gridley, California native.

“After wrestling practice,” Montero said. “I was going to dinner; I got a call from my mom and she said, ‘Hey, just wanted to let you know, before you hear from anywhere else, your grandpa’s house burned down and so did your aunt and uncle’s. The city is ablaze right now and there’s no slowing it down.’”

After receiving the call from his mother that his grandparents’ and aunt and uncle’s homes had been destroyed in the fire, UWO hosted the Dan Gable Open at Kolf Sports Center, where Montero competed in his first collegiate event.

Montero’s grandparents were supposed to come watch him in his inaugural meet but he did not expect them to after what had transpired in California.

“I even called my grandpa,” Montero said. “And my mom was like, ‘Oh, Raiden will totally understand if you don’t go, we get it.’ He was like, ‘No, I will meet you at four.’ They flew out here, knowing full well his house was gone.”

Montero said his grandpa was supportive at the meet and acted as if nothing had happened.

“He still came out here with a great mindset, and it was like nothing happened cause he wanted to support me and wanted to support my wrestling team,” Montero said. “Best thing about that is that at that tournament I got my first collegiate win and it was also a pin, first round. And my grandpa was there see that and my mom was there to see that. That was like, the most amazing feeling ever.”

After people were displaced to Montero’s hometown of Grindley, California, his family was tasked with pitching in to help the refugees. Montero said he is proud that his family was so willing to help those affected by the fires.

“My sister helped out a lot; I’m so proud of her,” Montero said. “She’s done so much to help them out. She volunteered time to help do coat drives and all the stuff for them. My mom helped out. The whole city came together and just helped everyone.”

Being busy with wrestling and school has kept Montero away from his hometown, unable to witness the toll the fires have taken on his town and its people. Montero said going home for a week during Christmas will hold some uncertainty.

“Come to think of it, it kind of sucks because I’m kinda coming to the realization just now that we would always have Christmas Eve my grandpa’s house,” Montero said. “I’m going home for Christmas. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Montero said he felt sentimental about the fact that his grandparents’ hometown would never look the same.

“I’ve been going to Paradise since I was a baby, cause that’s my mom’s hometown,” Montero said. “Now it’s just ash.”