CARLSBAD — The eucalyptus trees on Greg Saska’s property where he’s lived for 25 years are finally budding after being ravaged by the Poinsettia fires five months ago, with their ominous shells reminding Saska of the “hell” he went through.
Like the trees, Saska’s home on Skimmer Court went up in flames on May 14, yet re-building it has proven to be extremely difficult for the retiree.
His home was the only house on the street to burn down, which Saska partially blames on the oily foliage that surrounded his house, including birds of paradise and eucalyptus.
Saska didn’t have home insurance, because he said he couldn’t afford it and because he believed the Carlsbad Fire Department was extremely competent so he didn’t think he needed it.
“If we saw a fire down the road on El Camino Real, (the fire department) had it out in a half day with not even a building damaged,” Saska said.
He was given about 30 minutes to evacuate and lost everything except for a few photo albums, which he left on the hood of one of his cars, which he also lost in the fire.
In the scramble to leave, he left his Lincoln and BMW in the garage, where he figured they’d be safest. He was wrong. They were completely burnt in the flames.
“Fires are hell,” Saska said. “It’s one of the ugliest things I wouldn’t wish upon my (most) disliked individual.”
The home was a classic adobe style home by the Weir brothers, according to Saska. The Weirs have done adobe homes throughout North County.
The rebuilding process is extremely slow going. His home was declared a disaster area by the city and the burnt remains were taken away three weeks ago.
Hiring a company to take away the debris cost Saska about $9,000. He said he was a little disappointed with the city “that they weren’t a little more generous in their offers to assist,” he said.
“They brought me a Porta-Potty. At least I can go to the bathroom now, that helps,” Saska said with a chuckle.
However, his neighbors have stepped in to help. Stephanie Danielson-Tan started a GoFundMe campaign in hopes of raising $200,000 towards rebuilding. Thus far, $2,200 has been donated.
“We are doing this because Greg is not only a good friend and a kind soul, but because we feel so fortunate that our house is still standing and it is the least we can do for someone less fortunate,” Danielson-Tan wrote on the GoFundMe campaign.
John Aragon saw the burnt remains of Saska’s house while driving by and wanted to help. He set him up an e-mail and created a web presence for Saska.
“I thought that he needed a presence and people should know his story. When I saw him living over here like a homeless person, he didn’t even have a toilet,” Aragon said. “I couldn’t imagine a person like this, in this kind of neighborhood, living in worse conditions than in a really bad neighborhood.”
The homes in the surrounding neighborhood cost upwards of $700,000.
Members from the North Coast Calvary Chapel also came to remove debris and help trim foliage.
“That was so kind and loving,” Saska said of the church members.
For a while, Saska was forced to live in a tent while he dealt with a tenant who wouldn’t evacuate his garage. Finally, the “squatter” left, after Saska issued an eviction notice.
Now Saska lives in his garage without electricity. However, he stays positive and says how lucky he is to still have his health. He’s hopeful he’ll be able to rebuild within the coming year.