You never think it will happen to you.
That’s what Matthew and Fatima Green thought as they toured the wreckage that is now their home on Sugar Loaf Court in Canyon Country.
The ashes of his master bedroom nightstand now lay on the burned remains of their couch. Her art that hung on the walls was blackened beyond recognition except for the partially boiled frame around it.
Matthew said that as a veteran of the Iraq War, of which he served two tours, he had seen similar situations in the various provinces the war had torn through. Fatima was worried about him and how much trauma this has caused to both of them.
Matthew was one of the many whose backyard overlooks Tick Canyon. He was one of the few to see the wildfire consume his home.
He said he could see the “orange glow” of the flames a little over a mile away and he thought his home would be safe. After his mother-in-law had gone to bed, and he spoke with his wife Fatima over the phone — she was on a business trip at the time — he decided to stay up and watch the house.
Within 45 minutes of him seeing the faint glow, Matthew said the flames had enveloped the bushes on his back fence and he was packing up his truck.
“I can’t even describe the speed, how fast it came down here,” said Matthew, pointing to the top of Tick Canyon and tracing the path of the fire with his finger. “So fast.”
The wild animals did not even have a chance to react to the severity of the spread, according to Matthew. He described an owl, which usually rested at times on top of their chimney, flying over the flames, likely returning to his usual spot. Before he reached his destination, the flames jumped up and caught the bird on fire, he said.
With little time to spare, he retrieved a few important documents, including his and his wife’s passport, his United States Army discharge papers and a few other critical pieces of paper, their three dogs and his mother-in-law, and left.
Just before getting into the car, Matthew said, he realized his arm had been burned from the wind swept embers, and his dog’s fur was “smoking.” He immediately patted out the dog before the smoke could become flame.
Their house would be destroyed almost entirely within minutes. Only a single wall within their house would remain to stand, and within a week it too would be swaying in the breeze, ready to give at any moment.
Inside their home, photographs, furniture, both Matthew’s and Fatima’s various work projects they had taken home, were all destroyed. Even Matthew’s old Army uniforms, medals and commendations were destroyed.
The following morning, Fatima headed to Barstow to meet Matthew, where they first laid eyes on each other and embraced after the night’s events. They continued on to Las Vegas where they dropped their three dogs off and their mother-in-law with Fatima’s sister.
They then hopped in the car to return to Santa Clarita and rebuild.
“Every day you take a virtual walk through of each room and you’re like ‘crap, there’s one more thing that’s gone,’” said Matthew.
Fatima said that once she reached Las Vegas, she immediately began making the necessary calls to the insurance companies and contractors.
“We had just remodeled the master bedroom this year, we had redone the master closest put it in new chandeliers, we had just recently painted the house,” said Fatima. “We were like, ‘Oh my God, our house is looking so great.’ Gone.”
However, the Greens say the insurance they’ve been using has been helpful. It only took a single visit from the Fire Department and an adjuster to say the house was completely destroyed.
They are now working to bulldoze the house and start new. With a light-hearted take on things, cracking jokes here and there, the two, along with the help of their gardener, Emiliano Faben, they are sifting through the rumble before demolishing the home completely.
And even as they do so, they say they’re thinking more about others before themselves. They said they were worried that their construction would be disruptive to their neighbors, who had also sustained damage due to the flames.
“Everybody was just so nice, and we don’t want to be a nuisance to them,” said Matthew. “But the less time I have to look at this, I think, the less depressing it is.”
Fatima noted that she and her husband both work and are young, saying that they can work together easily to regain what they’ve lost. She said she was happy that it didn’t happen to anyone else in the neighborhood.
“It could’ve been so much worse, but we’re young, we’re strong and we can rebuild our lives,” said Fatima. “At this point, it happened to us, that’s the bad news. But that’s also the good news, because it didn’t happen to our neighbor who is pregnant and has a young child, or our elderly neighbor.”
To learn more about the Greens’ story or hear about how to assist them, visit their GoFundMe page at http://gf.me/u/wbcn65.