By Rylee Kelemen and Habeba Mostafa
Signal Staff Writers
Ten animals and one house that had been lived in for over 40 years became the victims of a house fire on Monday night.
Roxy Patrick and Kassandra DeStefano were gathering on Monday at 7:30 p.m. to prepare for the Halloween holiday at DeStefano’s house just halfway down the block.
Seeing they were missing a few items, the two made their way to a party supply store 15 minutes away.
Browsing the aisles and picking out items that caught their eyes, they had no idea what was going on back at Patrick’s house.
Clint Gordon, DeStefano’s father, was mowing the lawn at DeStefano’s and his residence. He looked up and saw smoke from down the block. He grabbed a family friend named Johnny and told him to check out what was going on.
By the amount of smoke, Gordon knew it was not a barbecue.
As Johnny approached Patrick’s residence, he saw her four kids exiting the house – a 12-year-old boy, 10-year-old girl, 8-year-old boy and a 6-year-old boy. They began telling him that someone was still in the back corner of the house – Patrick’s elderly mother.
Britni Bruins, a neighbor to the family, described what she saw unfold.
“The four kids were screaming and running out of the garage,” said Bruins.
The house was on fire and the kids began to tell Johnny that their grandma was still inside near the back corner.
Johnny ran back and successfully retrieved her.
With everyone safe, he ran back to Gordon to contact Patrick and the Fire Department.
According to Geovanni Sanchez, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, firefighters were dispatched at 8:50 p.m. to reports of a structure fire on the 28100 block of Oaklar Drive. They arrived at 8:58 p.m. to a working fire with heavy smoke showing.
Describing the smoke as a big, black plume, Bruins said the Fire Department arrived with as many as 12 fire trucks.
Still browsing the aisles filled with orange and black, Patrick received the call that her house was on fire.
DeStefano watched as her pupils dilated, jaw dropped and face went pale.
Nothing else mattered but getting home.
The two dropped everything they had in their hands and speed-walked out of the store.
After 15 minutes of driving and Patrick clasping her hands together, praying for the safety of her family, in that moment things were just things.
Patrick and DeStefano ran to the firefighters, feeling the heat on their faces, screaming, “Where are the kids?” The firefighters told them that the kids and her mother were safe down the block at Gordon’s and DeStefano’s house.
Firefighters contacted the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control to respond to the scene, according to Sanchez. The fire was knocked down at 9:25 p.m.
Another firefighter approached Patrick and DeStefano to inform them that 10 of Patrick’s animals had died.
Two 12-year-old chihuahuas named Lilly and Lady, an 8-month-old German shepherd named Hercules, a 9-year-old German shepherd Chow mix named Bonnie, a 2-year-old cat named Miso and a 1-year-old cat named Ash who gave birth to four kittens six weeks prior – Binx, Jack, Sally and Zero.
The only animal that survived was a cat named Socks, who was a stray but had been taken in by the family as an outside cat.
DeStefano did the only thing she could in that moment: be there for her family.
“When things like this happen, you help your family,” said DeStefano. “Even if these are your neighbors, they turn into your family. It’s just what you do.”
DeStefano held onto the 10-year-old girl as she bawled loudly and painfully.
“I miss my animals. I miss my kitties,” she cried.
DeStefano reminded her, in this moment, “You’re crying because you cared.”
A fire marshal told Patrick on Tuesday afternoon that the fire had begun in the attic and was caused by a faulty furnace. What was left were a few items of clothes, some shoes and each of the family members’ Bibles unscathed.
Patrick’s mother was reunited with Johnny. She cried as she exclaimed, “You’re the man who saved my life!”
Patrick stood in front of the home she grew up in, and the one she hoped to raise her children in, watching as the black ash began to layer every inch of her home.
Her family was safe, but almost all of her fur family was gone and everything she came to know.
Patrick and her children have been taken in by DeStefano and the rest of her family. Patrick’s mother is being taken care of by one of Patrick’s sisters.
DeStefano said that, at the time of this publication, the family is processing this trauma in the best and healthiest way they can, one step at a time.
Patrick expressed her worry to DeStefano about what was next for her family. Patrick homeschools all four of her children and she herself attends beauty school with aspirations to be a cosmetologist. In a state of panic, Patrick told DeStefano it may be time for her to quit. But DeStefano said no, as Patrick has already done 80% of the work she needs to do to achieve her dream.
What Patrick does not know at the time of this publication, is that her beauty school class has her back as well.
Ariana Hubbard, a friend and classmate of Patrick, created a GoFundMe page with a $100,000 goal to help restore what Patrick has lost. At the time of this publication, $1,275 has been raised. Hubbard has not yet informed Patrick about the GoFundMe, as she is still coping with the immediate situation.
“We started the GoFundMe in hopes that can kind of relieve some stress for her,” said Hubbard. “She’s a really strong person who tries to persevere. She’s always there for everybody at school, whenever they’re down. She’s always trying to help them, and always there for everyone. I feel like right now she needs us.”
In addition to these efforts, DeStefano and her family have started a donation hub at her home for items such as the following: clothes (contact DeStefano for sizes), shoes, school supplies, bathroom supplies and grocery gift cards.
“We truly do appreciate any and every help that anybody can give and we appreciate everybody’s sympathies,” said DeStefano. “We truly, truly do appreciate it.”
For those wishing to donate to the GoFundMe page, visit tinyurl.com/4bezvj5y. For those wishing to drop off donations at DeStefano’s home, contact her at 661-313-1322.
Additional reporting by Tyler Wainfeld.