Sandy, 60, and Ed Fuller, 62, who had retired from the oil industry in 2016, were excited about Christmas 2017. They planned a special family gathering, with relatives sending gifts to their home to store until the day arrived. They had purchased their home in 2011 on Scenic Way in the Clearpoint neighborhood in Ventura, a short sale of a house that was in dire need of TLC. After six years of renovations, including a new outdoor living space with an improved pool, the Fullers were fully primed for the holiday season.

In mid-November, however, Sandy said that while wandering through the house, she had a thought.
“I just felt prompted, what we would take if there was a fire?” Sandy said.

Her first priority, an oil painting her mother had created. Her mother had died in September. She also thought of her father who died the year before, and his father, who had just died shortly before in November; it had been a “rough year.”

“Anything that is hand-painted we would take,” Sandy said. “I had just organized all the photos from our parents’ albums and ours all in one place.”

Fast-forward to Monday night, Dec. 4, when the evacuation orders came for the Thomas Fire. The Fullers were in a fair position to get moving, though it wasn’t obvious what would befall their neighborhood.

“You have to understand, there were multiple power outages,” Ed said. “We didn’t see the fire. We could see the glow, it wasn’t super close.”

The Fullers had been in touch with friends who lived near Kimball Park, where they sheltered that night.
“They offered a room for us, and we went there,” Ed said. “From their back room, we could watch everything. We watched our house on fire.”

“We looked at each other and said, we know how to do this,” Sandy said, noting that they had been renovating their old house for years. “He went back to bed. We had this peace — we were so overwhelmed by what happened over the year, parents’ stuff in our home, amazingly crazy, overwhelmed with stuff. We know how to do this, we know how to build.”

With their (finally) fully renovated retirement home burnt to the ground, the Fullers stayed at their vacation rental in Hollywood Beach. Because of the renovation work, their architect already had essentials ready to move the rebuild forward. As the rebuild progressed, the Fullers opted to put a trailer on their property — and then the neighbors’, with permission — to be onsite when the builders had questions. Other than keeping mice at bay, trailer life wasn’t so bad.

“It’s quiet,” she said. “We love it.”

“Not how we pictured retirement but that’s OK,” Ed said.

The Fullers are one of two families preparing to move back in December into newly constructed homes after the Thomas Fire. Sandy said that their house should be ready in the coming week or two, just in time for Christmas.

“We are excited to say the least. We worked hard for this day,” Sandy said.

While the Fullers may have been better prepared than many others for both evacuation and life after fire, there are still things they wished they could have gotten.

“There is still stuff we think about,” Ed said. “My favorite example: I inherited from my grandfather an old wooden toolbox not worth anything to anybody, maybe $1.50. But to me, it was everything. Those are the little things.”

Despite the whirlwind of change and loss, Sandy spoke of an enduring peace.

“We were healed from all that pain,” she said, reflecting on the loss of family and other tribulations. “To think of those things makes you a little sad, makes you think. But the peace we got that night, that has never been taken away.”