Agua Dulce family digs out of the mud

Michelle Goertz removes debris caused by mud slides at her home. photo by Jim Holt, The Signal


When the trees and green hills burn all the way to the back door of your dream home, you carry on.

And, when the rains come and send a river of mud crashing through your dream home, destroying and everything inside, you carry on again.

Chad and Michelle Goertz have been digging out of the mud every day for one full week, ever since heavy rain flooded the hills behind their home on Soledad Canyon Road in Agua Dulce.

The extended Goertz family has lived in two structures on the property for that last 10 years.  The couple and their two children live in one, Michelle’s mother lives in the “granny house” just below it.

On Friday afternoon, the first of three back-to-back storms came through the Santa Clarita Valley, sending a steady stream of water by each dwelling.

“We were watching it happen from up there,” Chad said, pointing a near vertical hillside behind the main residence.

“Michelle’s mother was working in this house,” he said, pointing to the “granny house.”

“She came up to see us because she saw some water running through the ravine,” he said. “The water was coming through the yard and it kept getting bigger.

Chad Goertz described the torrent of water, mud and debris as eventually growing to 40 feet wide and 10 feet high.

“It just blasted through the house,” he said. “It pushed the doors inside.  Fortunately, she (grandmother) was out.

Mud filled the house to a level of two feet, swallowing nearly everything inside.

After the rain stopped and the mud subsided, the family pulled a couple of pieces of mud-caked furniture out of the muck, he said, but that was the extent of salvaged items.

“We pulled it out and tried to wash it off, but it (the mud) destroyed everything.”

His mother-in-law would not have survived the mud slide, Chad said, had she been in her house at the time.

“If she had been sleeping, she probably would have died,” he said. “If you hop out of bed, it’s going to knock you over.  That didn’t occur to us until a couple of days later.”

On Thursday, the Goertz family got some help shoveling mud, cleaning, gathering trash and moving debris from 50 inmates assigned to five work crews of 10 by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in the last couple of hours,” said Corrections Officer Sal Uribe told The Signal, as workers in jump suits around him hauled sheets of metal.

“The mud came down on both sides of the house. They sandbagged enough around this house,” Uribe said, pointing to the Goertz’s main dwelling.

“The other house was filled with mud three and four feet deep,” he said.

It took all members of the Goertz family, 50 workers, a dump truck and a Bearcat to remove debris, and move the mud from their dream home Thursday. And, the work was not done at day’s end.

“When the Sand Fire hit, it came right to the back of the house, and destroyed all the vegetation, which is what caused this,” Chad said, standing in the center of emptied, mud-stained shell of a house.

The family, unable to obtain home insurance due to the “prohibitive premiums,” has set up a fundraising website on GoFundMe.  The site can be found at .

As of Thursday, they Goertz family raised more than $10,000 to help them rebuild.

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on Twitter @jamesarthurholt

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