A family forced to evacuate from the Woolsey Fire escaped with their treasured mementos in tow, but lost them all a short time later after their car was broken into in an Encino parking lot while they ate lunch.
Even before a fire threatened to destroy their Thousand Oaks home, the Warren family had been through a lot in the past few years, with both parents surviving cancer.
After being ordered to evacuate early Saturday morning as the flames approached, the Warrens packed up their most important items, everything from jewelry and laptops to irreplaceable items such as photo albums. They then headed off to Encino to stay with relatives.
Later that afternoon, the family went to grab a quick bite at a restaurant on Ventura Boulevard. When they returned to their SUV -- which was parked in the lot behind the eatery -- the Warrens were horrified to discover their precious items were gone.
"It was a very sick feeling, we felt, like -- in shock," Lisa Warren told KTLA, her voice choked with emotion. "It's awful. There were pictures and photo albums and things from when the kids were little. And nothing's digital, and there's no way to replace it."
The items, she said, were stolen. Warren described surveillance video that captured the incident.
"A white van pulling alongside our car, and then another car pulled up facing our car - so we're assuming it was a lookout car," she said. "The van then backed up alongside the back of our car, smashed in the back window and pulled everything out."
The family has filed a police report as they hope to track down all the lost items.
In the meantime, the family has gotten bits of good news: some of the things they thought were gone forever have been recovered, thanks in part to a Facebook message sent to Warren's daughter by a stranger. The message said the daughter's high school diploma had been outside a Marina del Rey BevMo.
The family got a hold of surveillance video in that area and, lo and behold, it showed a white van backing into a parking lot on Lincoln Boulevard and dumping some suitcases, according to the family.
After, a man scooped the belongings up and put them into a shopping cart, taking them away
"They fell, and all of my daughter's things fell out of one of them, and that's how the lady probably saw her diploma," Warren said. "So, we drove out to Marina del Rey and walked through the alleys and the dumpsters."
While looking through a dumpster, the family found photographs and articles of clothing that belonged to them, according to daughter Alexa Warren.
"I saw my laptop case with nothing in it, but then, next to it I'd see a photo of my mom when she was a baby," she said.
They ended up finding two of their suitcases and recovered some of the priceless items.
But they're still missing a large charcoal Tumi suitcase filled with many of their precious belongings, including photo albums and important documents.
The Warrens hope to get that suitcase back, but they also say they want to warn others about the people driving the white van seen in the surveillance footage.