Multiple fires are raging in Southern California. A series of Santa Ana wind-driven wildfires have destroyed hundreds of structures, forced thousands to flee and smothered the region with smoke in what officials predicted would be a pitched battle for days.
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Geoff Marcus walked past the charred remains of his Dodge Ram in the driveway of his Ventura home and surveyed the rubble.
The raging Thomas fire chewed through the five-bedroom house he grew up in, the home his family has owned for 60 years.
“I’m looking to see what we can salvage,” said Marcus, 58.
He spent the morning rummaging with his two sons, Steven and Daniel. Together, they were able to scrounge a few ceramic plates and mugs.
Marcus said that when he and his mother, 92, evacuated Monday, they had no more than 10 minutes to leave. He saw the flames — “an orange glow like the Earth was angry” — and knew it was time to evacuate.
“It was enough time to grab the family and that was it,” he said. “That was all I had.”
His neighbors’ homes on both sides also burned down, along with one house across from his and the homes along the ridge above. Smoke puffed from the ground, which still radiated heat.
“I feel loss, but my family is safe and well and that’s all I care about. These are all possessions that can be replaced,” he said, walking through piles of burned wood and appliances.
Behind him stood a shower, blackened but perfectly intact.
“This was a happy place where we celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas. Everything my mom has collected and cherished is gone,” he said.
As his sons looked through the property, Marcus searched for one particular piece of the home — a portion of the driveway that had his and his father’s names etched into it. They’d scratched it into the concrete when it was repaved in 1984.
“I was hoping to find some jewelry, but it all melted,” he said.
His sons did find a small plate, embellished with the phrase “Little things mean a lot.” The plate, from Mother’s Day 1982, was in perfect shape.
The home was renovated in 2008, he said. Marcus and his mother are staying at his nephew’s house nearby until his insurance company provides him with temporary housing.
“I kept hoping we’d come back and there would be a house,” he said. “Now we rebuild and start over. There’s not much you can do otherwise.”
His son Steven popped his head up where the fireplace once stood.
“Hey!” he shouted. “I found an angel!”
He waved a small “Precious Moments” figurine with a halo atop its head, then tossed it to his brother with a laugh.