Watch CBS News

High school football players find refuge on gridiron after wildfire: "It really felt like home when I didn't have a home"

Football is form of therapy in fire-ravaged West
Football becomes form of therapy in fire-ravaged West 01:35

Colfax High School linebacker Peter Dunham usually runs into the action, not away from it. But there was no game plan for what he faced this summer. 

The River Fire destroyed 142 structures near Colfax, California, and damaged Dunham's home. The wildfire displaced many of Dunham's neighbors and friends, including his high school teammates. At least six players' homes were damaged. 

"I look up and there's a black plume of smoke over my house. We watched the house right across the street from mine go up in flames," Dunham said. 

Dunham, a senior, slept in the bed of his truck parked at a campground. His home had to be torn down because of smoke damage. 

Falcons coach Tony Martello realized the green gridiron was a place of refuge for the team. "It allowed the kids to come back, and it created a sense of normalcy," he said. 

Dunham said the field is "definitely an escape." 

"We all know that we've been affected by it — some more than others —  but we're all fighting together," he said. "Being here playing football, it felt great. It really felt like home when I didn't have a home." 

The game has become a form of therapy, not just for the players but the entire community in the fire-ravaged West. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.