Scott Hicks walked among heaps of rubble, debris and twisted metal, all that remained of his home in Malibou Lake after the Woolsey Fire tore through the area last week.
The massive wildfire caused mass destruction to the small community nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains near Agoura Hills, and evacuated residents were finally allowed back to see the devastation for themselves Thursday morning — exactly one week after the flames erupted.
Hicks was among those who came home only to find their homes were gone, burned to the ground along with whatever possessions were left behind. His family had lived there for some 42 years.
“It’s hard, you know. I’ve been through three fires here,” he told KTLA. “This one got us.”
Hicks and his family managed to get out before the firestorm ripped through the area, taking some insurance papers and personal belongings. That’s everything they have left.
“Things that get you are some memories hanging on the walls and stuff,” he said. “All this is just stuff though.”
Hicks is grateful that his family is alive and safe, noting everything else can be replaced. Still, he added, it’s tough.
“I don’t even have words for it,” he said.
A carpenter by trade, Hicks already has plans to rebuild on the property and, even as he himself lost everything, is offering to help others in the community whose homes were also destroyed.
“We will rebuild though. We’ll sustain good hope,” he said. “Like I said to all the neighbors out there: You know me, you need my help, call me, I’ll be there for you.”
Hicks extended that generosity to his neighbor Monique Quigley, whose house was also reduced to rubble and ash. He offered to help her rebuild when he ran into her as she, too, went to survey the destruction.
“You call me when you need anything,” Hicks told Quigley, squeezing her hand.
Like her neighbor, Quigley — who lived at the home for 18 years — was also extremely thankful that her family and pets made it out safely, noting that is what matters most at the end of the day.
“I have my life, I’ve got my kids, I’ve got my animals, and I’ll be OK,” she told KTLA. “I don’t know what else to do … I think you just have to think like that.”
Before Hicks left the scene, there was one last thing to do: he wanted to personally thank firefighters for their courageous efforts, though they were unable to save his home.
So Hicks walked up to an Anaheim Fire Department truck that was parked in the area, shook the hand of one firefighter seated inside and delivered a heartfelt message to him.
“I just wanted to say thank you for your service,” he said.
The firefighter responded: “I’m sorry for your loss.”
It’s unclear just how many homes in Malibou Lake were destroyed. The latest estimates place the total number of structures lost in the Woolsey Fire at an estimated 504 as of Thursday, though officials have previously acknowledged they expect the figure to continue to climb as more areas are surveyed.
The massive blaze has charred some 98,362 acres — over 153 square miles — in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, and is 57 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.