From the ashes we rise - together.

From the ashes we rise - together.

From the ashes we rise

 On December 4, 2017, my daughter and I were watching the Crown. Dave was in Europe visiting new stores in Germany. It was a beautiful night with a clear sky full of stars. What happened next changed our lives, our community and our environment for many years to come.

In the middle our dinner my neighbor called and said, “Kerri there is a fire, go outside.” I went outside and saw a bright glow on a hillside one mile away. It was a small area, but experience told me to be cautious, so I sent my daughter, our dog and one file drawer of important papers down the hill to a safe place near the beach.

By the time she left, which was only about 20 minutes, I stood in the middle of our yard with fire all around me. The 70 mph Santa Ana winds were blowing the fire sideways, black smoked swirled around me and now, I was in the middle of a full blown fire hurricane. It only took minutes for the fire to go a mile – there was no time to think.

With no power, no light and now I was faced with evacuating horses, chickens and a goat plus whatever sentimental items I could grab. Our lives went from eating dinner and watching the Crown to running for our lives from a fire hurricane, all happening inside a half of an hour.

Due to a dead truck battery I, I came to the realization that I would not be able to get my horses to safety. My evacuation route was on fire and I stood there in a vortex of black smoke, I was accepting the fact that there was a good chance I would not escape.

Through the smoke, the firefighters were screaming to leave, abandon the animals and to go-go-go. Through the smoke I saw headlights. It was my neighbor and veterinarian who asked if I needed help. He backed his truck to my horse trailer and calmly hooked it up, helped me load my horses and off we went through the flames to safety.

Covered in smoke, tears and fear, we made it to an evacuation place. I saw true heroes in that smoke, from the neighbor who rescued me to the neighbors who stayed and fought the fire saving their homes and ours. I still lack the words to full describe the scene and what happened that night.

Through this tragedy where over 1200 people in our community lost their homes, we have seen people rise, help each other, neighbor with neighbor dig through the rubble of their homes to find anything that was left. Neighbors took in their neighbors in, food was shared, money was raised and now the rebuilding process starts. Some will never come back, as there was no insurance or for other reasons. Others will rebuild, but it will take a long time.

One month later, as we welcome the New Year, we are starting to move forward and trying to find a new normal. Internet was just restored and we are trying to get all systems back on track. It will take a while to get settled as our beautiful community was turned upside down.

We are so grateful that our home and business was spared. We are in awe of those who stayed and fought to save our homes and all of the first responders who braved hell-fire conditions for a month to get the fire under control. For the start of the new year we have new perspective and appreciation. Happy New Year, we rise together.

Footwear News covered our story and here is a link:

Now as we get to a new normal, we will continue to reach out to those in terrible need. Here is a link to those who lost their homes in our immediate area.


jacob the Ojai goat being evacuated during Thomas Fire

Jacob the Goat riding shotgun with me in the truck as we evacuated from place to place as the fire closed in from Ojai to Santa Barbara.

Jacob the Ojai goat made it to the beach during the Thomas Fire after escaping the flames with dav footwear co-founder Kerri Sengstaken

Jacob the Goat and I made it to the beach during the wildfires. Jacob was such a good boy through everything, trusting me even though he was very scared.

Horses making new friends at the evacuation center in Santa Barbara

Our horses made new friends at the evacuation center in Santa Barbara. 

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.