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Major Losses for Westmont Faculty Housing

Tough Mornings-after for Some Longtime Residents


Independent reporter Chris Meagher reported from Westmont Road, where many Westmont College professors and faculty live with their families. The neighborhood is called Las Barrancas, and Dave Wolf, the college’s men’s and women’s soccer coach, has lived there with his wife, Jill, and their five children since 1996.

The Wolf family, whose house is at 825 Westmont Road, evacuated Thursday night at about 6:30 p.m. Wolf had just finished soccer practice and was getting out of his car at home when he saw the fire in the hills and gathered his family. They stayed in town at the home of one of his former players. Wolf said he was pretty sure his house burned at about midnight last night.

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Wolf came back to the site of his home at about 11 a.m. Friday with his oldest son, Tanner. They were not able to save much of anything; no photos or videos, just a few documents. “It was good to be with [Tanner],” Wolf said. “We had a good cry.” The family is still trying to secure lodging for the short term, and of course need to figure out a long-term plan. “Over the course of time, these things replenish themselves,” he said.

Wolf said his office at Westmont survived, but there is some damage around the soccer field. Latest reports from Westmont College show that 14 of the 41 homes in the Las Barrancas neighborhood have been lost.

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Meagher also reported that from his vantage point on Westmont Road, he saw about seven houses had burned down, including 762 Westmont Road and 733 Westmont Road, where four firefighters from L.A. County Fire were still putting out hotspots as of about 1:45 p.m. At 762 Westmont Road, five L.A. firefighters were attempting to extinguish fully the small fires still burning. All that remained at that address was a chimney and four or five aloe plants lining the front yard, according to Meagher. The recycling bin was melted into the grass. Meagher also reported that the air quality was not too bad at his current location, but people were distributing masks. There were a lot of media there - mostly television station crews - but not many residents.

At Westmont’s campus, nine structures were lost to the fire: four of the 17 buildings that make up Clark Halls (F, G, M, and S), Bauder Hall, the physics building, the old math building, and two Quonset huts. The latter three structures were scheduled for demolition in the coming weeks to make way for future Westmont development. Approximately 40-50 students lost their housing to the fire and will need to make longer-term arrangements.

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Anyone willing to house a student for the rest of the fall semester and possibly during the spring can contact westmonthousinghelp@gmail.com.

At 6:15 p.m., Thursday night, all Westmont students, faculty, and staff were instructed to evacuate to the campus’s gym. “The students did amazingly well,” said Chris Call, vice president for administration, who led the crisis response on Thursday. “They remained calm, ate a late-night snack, and spent part of the evening watching the movie The Incredibles.”

We’re so grateful for the many offers of assistance that have poured in since the fire began,” Westmont president Gayle Beebe said. “It’s so encouraging to receive that kind of support from the community.”

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