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Their home of 33 years was gone, like the otherhouses on Skycrest Court in Ventura’s Ondulando neighborhood, like the more than 400 homes and buildings turned into still smoking graveyards by the Thomas Fire.Virtually everything in the ranch style home was gone, including the Colt .45 semi automatic pistol Steven’s father carried through his time in World War II and the Korean War.It’s the gun, part of a prized collection, that made Steven’sbody tremble late Thursday afternoon.”You don’t get emotional about your house burning down,” he said, trying to explain his tears. “It’s individual items you suddenly think of.”The Thomas Fire displaced more than 87,000 people from about 15,000 homes. Pushed by Santa Ana winds, walls of flame crisscrossed Santa Paula, Ventura, the Ojai Valley, Carpinteria and virtually all points in between.The fire has sparked as many stories as the acres it has destroyed. They are accounts that tell of desperation and loss but also of resolve and a willingness to fighttogether. Here are a few of them.Hoping it’s a dreamSteven Hintz’s home burned early Tuesday, sometime after the red glare of fire on a nearby hill woke him from a doze, pushing him to evacuate for the second time that night.One day later,
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he visited his home. It was a pancake of burned debris with little standing besides a fireplace and the hulking remains of a washing machine and refrigerator.The shock pushed the 70 year old retired judge who serves as Ventura County’s treasurer and tax collector into unfamiliar territory.He was homeless.”All of a sudden, the biggest thing you have to think of is finding a room to sleep in,” he said.Each morning after the fire, he and his wife made a list on yellow notebook paper of the things needed to be completed that day: Order new checks. Cancel services for a home that no longer exists. Buy clothes.He tries to focus just on the next step. He realizes that although hishome was crushed, he is far luckier than hundreds of others because he knows people, has a job, has some financial stability.Still, three days after the loss, he was struggling to accept it all.”I can’t tell you how disappointed I was when I woke up this morning and it was all real,” he said.A guitar, clothes and a laptopBill MacNeil sat at the check in desk of the crowded shelterat Ojai’s Nordhoff High School, telling his storyin a soft, dazed monotone.He was looking for a friend. She might have come here. He decided he should probably register for a bed and maybe that day’s lunch of cauliflower and beef.”A magical place,” he said, standing on the blacktop just outside the shelter, still looking for his friend. “I knew it was too good to be true.”Buy PhotoBill MacNeil found out Thursday his Ojai area cabin was destroyed by the Thomas Fire. (Photo: TOM KISKEN/THE STAR)He looked out the cabin’s picture window on Wednesday night and saw flames on top of the ridge. He ran out with his guitar,
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a few clothes and a laptop computer.