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A Ventura couple who saw their home burn down on television, share their journey to rebuild

The Hawks have rebuilt their house after a total loss of their home in the Thomas wildfire
Caroline Feraday
/
KCLU
The Hawks have rebuilt their house after a total loss of their home in the Thomas wildfire

Jim and Lisa Hawk lost their Ventura home in the Thomas Wildfire in December 2017.

Imagine seeing your home burn down live on the television. That’s what happened to a Ventura County couple in the Thomas Wildfire of December 2017.

The Thomas Fire is the largest wildfire in modern Californian history and reached the hillside neighborhood of Ondulando on December 4th 2017, and destroyed many of the single-family homes in the area. The fire had traveled 12 miles in just a few hours.

Jim Hawk and his wife Lisa should have still been very much in the honeymoon stage – just three months after getting married, on the deck of the property on Via Ondulando.

Instead, they found themselves evacuating their home and then watching it burn down on the television.

Jim and Lisa Hawk have a framed picture of the Thomas Fire in their new home
Caroline Feraday
/
KCLU
Jim and Lisa Hawk have a framed picture of the Thomas Fire in their new home

"Looked outside and the glow was all around us," remembered Lisa. She said she still hates to hear the sound of the helicopters, and the noise of the 80mph winds were memorable.

Jim was watching television the next day and found out their house had been affected when he saw his car and home burning.

"We knew then that the house was lost."

The house was Jim’s home since 1989, and he raised both his sons there.

Jim – who works in the construction industry – took on the project to rebuild the home himself.

"We were zombies for a time...we were walking around in shock until we started rebuilding the house. It gave me a purpose," said Jim.

As Jim usually undertakes commercial work, it was the first time he had built a house himself, but he says having the project enabled him to heal from the loss of his home of 27-years and all their belongings.

It took 18 months, "it actually turned out better than we imagined," said Jim.

"I never thought I'd build a new home," said Lisa. "Starting from scratch was really overwhelming."

The property has been rebuilt, along with others in the neighborhood
Caroline Feraday
/
KCLU
The property has been rebuilt, along with others in the neighborhood

Like a Phoenix from the ashes, the neighborhood now has multiple rebuilt properties. but despite being very happy with their new Spanish modern style home, the Hawks say that there are things which simply can’t be replaced.

"I had marks with my boys growing up on the wall, that's something we can never get back. And videos of my sons first steps," said Jim. He had photos stored in a box in the attic which were lost, and Lisa chips in that although they did have their wedding photos, they lost more of their gifts in the fire.

"The guilt that came along with losing all the presents that people went out and got us...the guilt stayed," said Lisa.

The Hawks are one of a number of homes opening their doors on Saturday April 22 from noon to 4pm, for a tour of rebuilt homes after the devastation of the Thomas Fire, which is being presented by Ventura County Library.

Tickets are $50.00 and on sale now at www.vclibraryfoundation.org

Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award in 2022 and 2023.

Since joining the station she's won 10 Golden Mike Awards, 5 Los Angeles Press Club Awards, 2 National Arts & Entertainment Awards and a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Writing.

She started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007.

She has lived in California for eleven years and is both an American and British citizen - and a very proud mom to her daughter, Elsie.