Much of what was lost from the Woolsey fire are cherished memories that can't be replaced.
But at Santa Monica College, faculty and students from the photography, cosmetology and fashion departments organized a day of free family portraits for those affected by the devastating fires.
Some 25 families, including Carla and Bruce Bates, signed up for the 20 minute photo sessions, which included hair, makeup and wardrobe assistance.
“We lost most of our photos,” said Bruce Bates, who also lost his home.
“We were able to save a few. But the last portrait that my wife and I've taken was probably 20 years ago and it burned in the fire.”
The photo project is the brainchild of Blue Fier, a photography instructor at Santa Monica College who discovered, after the 1993 Topanga fire, that the one thing people most wished they had been able to save from their homes was their photos.
“As a photographer, I'm good at creating new memories and having new family portrait, we give them hope,” said Fier.
“When I got the call to come here I thought, this is a nice opportunity and a nice way to lift our spirits,” said Carla Bates.
“Carla and I've been together for 25 years. It's been incredible. This will be a great test, rebuilding,” added Bruce Bates. “I know that this whole experience is going to bring us together.”
Although they lost their home, Bruce and Carla evacuated safely with their family and their dogs, Buddy and Dolly, and now the process of rebuilding begins.
“Everybody is just been so kind and have reached out,” said Carla. “I mean, people that we don't even know have reached out to us. Little things like this make a difference. It makes me understand that it's going to be fine. We're going to get through this.”
Although some memories have been lost forever, today, community spirit and the power of photography are helping families make new ones.