Bridlington man loses everything in California wildfire

The Hawkins family have lost their home in the fire in California
The Hawkins family have lost their home in the fire in California

A former Bridlington man has lost his family home and almost all of his possessions in the devastating wildfires which have hit California.

Darren Hawkins was given just minutes to evacuate his home in Ojai before it was reduced to a pile of rubble and embers.

The Hawkins family home

The Hawkins family home

His relatives back in Yorkshire are urging old friends to donate to an online appeal which has been set up to support Darren, his wife Jenn daughter Riley and three-year-old son Harry.

Dad Graham told the Free Press: “I asked him what he had been able to save.

“He had got a few bags of personal possessions and was told to leave immediately. They only had five minutes.

“They were only about a quarter-of-a-mile away from where the fire started and they live in a wooded, mountainous area. 60mph winds were fanning the flames and it moved so quickly. They have lost their house, their garage and all their possessions.”

The heartbreaking scene of what remains

The heartbreaking scene of what remains

The 36-year-old, who used to work as lifeguard at Leisure World in Bridlington, moved to America 17 years ago.

Darren now works for a water company in California and he and his family are currently staying with Jenn’s friends in Ventura, around 20 miles away from Ojai, but Graham said it could be more than a year before they make any progress with their insurance claim.

“It must have been terrifying,” he added.

“But just imagine going back to your home and it not being there. The only clothes you have are the ones you are standing in.

A vehicle drives through the devastation left by the Thomas fire on the Dennison Grade in the Ojai Valley's East End. (Ojai Valley News photo by Tim Dewar)

A vehicle drives through the devastation left by the Thomas fire on the Dennison Grade in the Ojai Valley's East End. (Ojai Valley News photo by Tim Dewar)

“People over there are very community-minded and have helped so much but we don’t know what is going to happen. It is unbelievable.”

An online funding site set up by a friend in Ojai has raised $3,800 (almost £3,000) in just six days.

Darren’s sister Naomi said she was “heartbroken” and hoped people in Bridlington would show their support.

“He has nothing left of his home and we are all devastated,” she said.

The sun filters through smoke billowing from the East End of the Ojai Valley. (Ojai Valley News photo by Perry Van Houten)

The sun filters through smoke billowing from the East End of the Ojai Valley. (Ojai Valley News photo by Perry Van Houten)

“We are wanting to raise money for him and his family so they can buy clothes, food, toiletries, also maybe buy a few presents for Christmas as everything they had or owned has been destroyed.

“I’m hoping Bridlington can come together and support one of their own in a time of need.”

You can donate to the appeal for the Hawkins family at www.gofundme.com/4t9exm8

Smoke from the Thomas Fire rolls past the Ojai Post Office tower and the Ojai Playhouse in downtown Ojai. (Ojai Valley News photo by Perry Van Houten

Smoke from the Thomas Fire rolls past the Ojai Post Office tower and the Ojai Playhouse in downtown Ojai. (Ojai Valley News photo by Perry Van Houten