Over the past few weeks, Southern California has been ravaged by wild fires. I have called Los Angeles my home for the last 9 years, in that time there has been many wildfires none of which have come close to where anyone I know lives.
That was until the Woolsey fire.
We woke up Friday, November 9th to hear the fires jumped the freeway overnight, many people in Malibu and surrounding areas were being evacuated.
As the day progressed more and more areas where being evacuated, not many were voluntary at this point. A text group between Alex, my in-laws, my mom (who recently moved to LA) and myself began.
Friends were evacuated some were staying with my in-laws, Alex’s best friend’s parents were staying with their son, Matt and his family.
At 11am, my mother in law, texted the group saying Alex’s best friend’s parents who resided in Oak Park lost their home.
Alex and I could not even believe it. How could it be? They had to be wrong. How did they know? Alex and I hoped they were wrong. And if their house did burn, maybe MAYBE by some slight chance there would be only slight damage, or fine damage but hopefully they would be able to get some of their belongs—hope. Belongings, treasures are the most important thing next to their lives.
That weekend our girls were going to go to spend time with Alex’s parents, so we could have a little break. Most people would really embrace their time off; sleep, go to the store alone, watch adult TV during the day, go to restaurants without a screaming kid. What did we do? We put on our hiking gear (pants I have not worn since my honeymoon and they closed, WIN, but could barely breathe. Hey, they closed), dropped the girls off and headed to Oak Park to help them.
We packed the car with water, snacks, and hope.
As we got closer to their house entire towns were chard. We saw fire trucks everywhere. There was a silence, a sadness and we gulped. Still full of hope but in complete silence.
There is no way.
As we pulled down their street, every house was in-tact, every house looked perfect, no burned trees, nothing.
We took a combined sigh– of hope.
Then, we got to their house. There were neighbors outside waiting, guarding the house.
It was completely burned down. GONE. The front bricks were the garage was, remained but that was practically it.
My heart sank, and I don’t know them as long or as well as Alex does. Complete and utter devastation.
The only house on the street gone by the Woolsey fire. ONLY HOUSE. I still don’t understand how that is even possible.
The park across the street was burned and then their home, the home they lived in for 22 years.
Their large safe was in-tact. The day before Bill, Matt’s dad came to the house and was able to empty the safe. At that time, the garage was still standing. When he came back the next morning, it was gone.
We got to work right away.
Spots of the house was still smoldering. Alex got the neighbors hose, extinguished those. I worked on finding anything that survived. I dug and sifted All. DAY. LONG. I found a dolls head, clothes (nothing that survived), ceramic dog and handcuffs. Bill was a cop. He mentioned having handcuffs that was his father’s that was carried in World War II, I can only hope the handcuffs I found where those, but I doubt it.
We were there for hours.
Around 5pm, we started to head out when an AP journalist came to ask some questions which was heart-breaking to listen to. When the journalist asked his age, he responded with too old to start over.
I still can’t fully wrap my head around losing your home to a fire. It’s even harder to grasp when it was the only home on the block that succumb to the fire.
In the short time since this happened I’ve learned a few things:
- If you are being evacuated never assume you will come back. Always take as many treasured/air looms as you can. Clothes can easily be replaced. They never thought their house would burn down even though they were evacuated. They left quickly in the middle of the night and barely took anything with them.
- Large safes are “generally” fire resistant could sustain. They had theirs in the garage, so they were easily able to get to it when the house was gone.
- Small safes that should be fire resistant are no guarantee. We were looking for the small safe all day to avail. Matt has been digging all week and has not found it yet. Alex thinks the heat of the fire was too much for the small safe to take and likely gone.
- Have a go bag with essentials, maybe a few items that cannot be replaced. Your go bag will make it so much easier to grab and go, less worry, less stress when you need leave in a hurry.
- Make sure you have enough insurance even though its expensive, at the end of the day it’s worth every dime, if/when you need it.