Students lose homes in Woolsey fire

Follett: ‘there was nothing they could do’

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Senior Lili Follett lost her home and Olaf, her car, in the recent Woolsey fire. Her new car is named Pontoof. This name came from an Instagram questionnaire Follett started, asking for the worst car names. She received this submission by Simon Lunche, a musician she met a few years ago.

The Woolsey fire, named after Woolsey Canyon Road, burned through southern California from Nov. 8-22. Over two weeks, 96,949 acres of land burned. According to the Los Angeles Times, “the Woolsey fire destroyed 1,643 structures.”

Follett was awake, listening to police scanners when she heard that Calabasas, specifically where her grandparents live, was put under mandatory evacuation. It was 3 a.m. on Nov. 9, and since her grandparents did not have a car as theirs was in the shop, Follett woke up her parents.

“I woke up my parents and said ‘Hey, they’re being evacuated. We should probably go too’ because our house is only a mile away from where the line [of evacuation] was,” Follett said. “As we were heading out the door, we got our mandatory evacuation for our area, so we got out at the right time.”

Some of Follett’s neighbors stayed in their homes to protect their property. They reassured her family in the late afternoon of Nov. 9 that their house was fine. Roughly an hour later, Follett and her family received a call from their neighbors telling them to call 911 because their house was on fire.

“[A] firetruck tried to come to our house — there was a power line [down] on the street, so the firetruck couldn’t get through to the fire,” Follett said.

Follett said that as the Woolsey fire came through her neighborhood, her house was left standing. However, her propane gas tank line was weakened.

“Our propane line ruptured, which basically caused a flame-thrower pointed at the house,” Follett said. “[It] caught the garage on fire, so there was nothing they could do because it was a gas fire.”

Follett and her family stayed in various hotels from Nov. 8 to Dec. 1. They moved into their rental home on Dec. 1, which happens to be in the same neighborhood as their house that burned down in Lobo Canyon.

Follett’s new car is named Pontoof. The name came from an Instagram questionnaire she started, skin for the worst car names. She received this submission by Simon Lunche, a musician she met a few years ago.

Senior Dylan Rodgers experienced the “scariest moment” of his life when he evacuated his Oak Park house because of the Woolsey fire.

“I’m driving on Doubletree [Road]. I’m alone in my car and I look to my left. The hill where I’ve hiked with my brothers growing up, the entire thing is totally on fire,” Rodgers said.

While Rodgers described that his family and he were “giddy like kids on Christmas” to see his house standing, his entire first floor is “considered a loss” because of smoke damage.

Nov. 10, Rodgers bought new tools, since his were burned in the fire, in order to work on his backyard and shovel out rubble from the house. He was using a chainsaw at senior Ben Fuller’s house later that day to help with their fence and burned trees.

Rodgers continued to clean up Fuller’s backyard, and on Nov. 12, Rodgers approached one of Fuller’s neighbors and offered his help.

“I just kinda figured everyone could use this help,” Rodgers said. “I was walking on the street with my chainsaw offering people help wherever they needed it. I was chopping down trees and all that kind of stuff for the next week.”

Because of those actions, Rodgers was featured on Building Character, a show on Fox Sports West, that aired Nov. 23.

Junior Milana Marsh also lost her home in the Woolsey fire. She evacuated her house in Agoura Hills with her mother, step-father, little brother and step-siblings at 2 a.m. Nov. 9. Marsh and her family stayed with her grandparents in Northridge.

“We watch[ed] the news in anxious anticipation of any news on our home and the homes of our friends and family,” Marsh said.

Later that evening, Marsh and her family learned that their house was no longer standing.

“Nobody knew how to react [and we] continued to [go to] dinner in shock and disbelieving,” Marsh said. “We spent the weekend in Northridge, facing grief and trying to create a plan to move forward.”

Marsh and her family moved into a hotel room at the Westlake Village Inn, following the news of the loss of their home, then rented a house in Oak Park. She will be living there for a couple years while their home is rebuilt. Marsh said the community has played a big part in her recovery.

“Never would I have ever dreamed of receiving this type of support,” Marsh said. “Dance coaches donating clothes, people giving generous gift cards, friends surprising me in my hotel, the PFA raising money for families like mine … it’s absolutely humbling to realize how much people care and are willing to help.”

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