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Local home rises from the ashes

Family lost house in 2007 Buckweed Fire

Posted: January 24, 2009 9:45 p.m.
Updated: January 25, 2009 4:59 a.m.
 
"Home sweet home" carries a bittersweet meaning for a Santa Clarita family that lost its home to the Buckweed Fire that tore through the valley in 2007.

On Monday, the Michaelis family will move furniture into their rebuilt house on Camp Plenty Road, where fire ravaged their home 15 months ago.

"When the fire came through we were not there, but we understand a gas explosion caused our house to explode," Tracy Michaelis said.

The Michaelis family moved in with Tracy's parents after the fire and began rebuilding from day one.

They rented a house to wait out the majority of the rebuilding project, she said.

"We had to rebuild from 18 inches below the foundation and do soil testing," she said. "We have to wait until all of the grading is done to reside in our home with the permission of the city."

Her family received overwhelming support from the community, Michaelis said.

"Since then we have had many challenges with re-building and in the midst of all of that, our community and neighbors have been so wonderful to us," she said.

The Santa Clarita Valley Disaster Coalition, Santa Clarita Christian School, Cedar Creek Elementary School, The Church on the Way, Consumer Furniture and many others in the community pitched in to help, Michaelis said.

"Consumer Furniture was so kind to us," she said. "They gave me a huge discount on furniture. Cedar Creek had a garage sale and raised so much money that we were able to buy a new washing machine and dryer."

Diane Green and Carl Goldman from the SCV Disaster Coalition set the family up with Camelot Movers, who offered to move the family for free, Michaelis said.

"When we approached our insurance company about helping us with additional moving expenses, they told us to get our friends and neighbors to move us," Michaelis said. "I sent an e-mail to some people on a prayer request line and Diane Green got it."

The coalition is a nonprofit extension of the SCV Committee on Aging that provides disaster relief and extends the work of first responders, Green said.

"We fill in the gaps when necessary, whatever that is: food, utilities, or clothing," she said.

The coalition helped the Michaelis family replace some of the possessions they'd lost in the fire.

"We gave the family cash cards to help replace what they'd lost," Green said. "It's bittersweet because they're replacing a structure but they're not replacing their memories."

The coalition connected with American Red Cross's recovery planning and assistance program to help fire victims.

"After the fire, a number of those who had lost their homes signed up for assistance with the Red Cross," Green said. "Red Cross has a mandate to spend the money that was donated after the wildfires on the wildfire victims of 2007 ... so there's quite a bit of money laying around. We're hoping the Red Cross is going to step up and fulfill that need."

Funding grants to Santa Clarita fire victims have been minimal because many of the people here haven't rebuilt their homes yet, Goldman said.

The Michaelis family is grateful for all the support and encourages other families in similar situations.

"We're really excited," Michaelis said. "We hope to help some of those people who lost their homes in recent fires. You can't go through something and be so hurt and not care for others."

The Buckweed Fire burned 21 homes in the Santa Clarita Valley starting Oct. 21, 2007.

"I wouldn't be surprised if 50 percent of those homes don't ever get rebuilt," Goldman said. "Each time a family rebuilds and moves in, that's a giant victory because that's a step toward normalcy."

The coalition provides free information and disaster recovery counseling to victims of natural disasters, focusing primarily on insurance claims and construction issues.

The Web site is www.scvcoalition.com.

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