PENDLETON - Deja vu is not a good thing to Catherine Bach.
At the age of 15, she learned what it was like to lose her home as wildfire claimed her mother Barb Stuvland's house. Tuesday night, Bach, now 21, lost another home to fire as a blaze gutted the living room of her duplex near the Pendleton airport.
Bach and her friend and boss, Leslie Child, were watching television and had plans to go out. A friend kept calling, asking where they were but the show they were watching, "The Biggest Loser," wasn't over yet. When it ended, they rushed out the door, only to return three times for things they had forgotten. All was well when they made their final visit at 9:45 p.m.
A neighbor who came home from work early noticed smoke coming from the home and immediately called 9-1-1 and woke her husband. Bach said the man attempted to enter her half of the duplex, fearing she was inside. But the neighbor called the young woman's cell phone and found out she wasn't at home.
"At about 10:30, she called and said, 'You're house is on fire,'" Bach recalled. "I couldn't believe it. There were tons of firefighters there."
While the two bedrooms were unscathed by fire, Bach said her belongings, along with those being stored there by her friend, John Conn, reeked of smoke. Conn had left his big screen television at the home when he moved to another residence, and it melted in the fire.
She said fire officials are not sure what caused the blaze, but that they told her they thought it was either an overheated Internet router or a three-way lamp that was using a single wattage bulb.
What the fire didn't damage still amazes Bach.
Normally, when she leaves, she puts her cat, Pretty Girl, inside. This time she didn't and she found the cat hiding under the house, scared but safe when she returned to the scene. A small box with some of her most treasured keepsakes was found intact. Meanwhile, her photographs are stuck together and melted, except for the pictures of the 1997 fire. Those were totally unharmed, she said.
She also is thankful the fire didn't spread to her neighbors' half of the duplex.
"It's remarkable that the wall where the fire started is the wall I share with them," she said. "It's just one-inch thick particle board, but their side is completely untouched."
Bach returned to the scene the next day to salvage what she could.
"I couldn't believe everyone who showed up to help," she said. "People came from everywhere. So many people came to help."
Bach tried to name all of the helpers, but was sure she had left some out.
In addition to her friends, Bach has received help from both the American Red Cross and CAPECO's Helping Hands program. She said the Rental Center in Pendleton came out to help as well. The duplex is owned by the city, and she was quickly relocated to an apartment nearby, which was occupied by her cousin who left recently for training at Fort Sill, Okla., before being deployed to Iraq.
Fire has threatened Bach on other occasions since the 1997 blaze. Twice fires have threatened to come close to her property - one a grass fire and the other sparked by fireworks - but both times the flames stopped short.
"Smoke follows beauty," she joked.
Bach continues to return to the scene of the fire to sift through the ashes. A Black Hills Gold cross, passed from daughter to daughter on her mother's side of the family is the only thing of value she has not been able to find.
"Maybe if I could find a metal detector I could find it," she said.
Bach seems to be taking things in stride.
"Me and my cat are OK," she said. "You learn to deal. Somebody's wanting me to make a fresh start, so we'll do it again."