Thomas Fire Donaldson Boswell

Hello everyone,

Bob and Jacqueline need your help to rebuild their house. Their home and everything inside was lost in the Thomas Fire. They've touched so many people's lives. This is our opportunity to give back to them. Any donation, big or small, will be incredibly appreciated. The funds are directly deposited into their account. Please read their story below.


On December 4th, 2017 we lost our family's home of 33 years to the Ventura Thomas wildfires even with our best efforts to save our home. This is a video as I was leaving our home for the last time.

House on fire:

The Story:

At about 10pm the night of December 4th I received a call from our daughter telling me there is a fire about 14 miles east of us and that it is burning out of control due to the Santa Anna winds of some 70 to 80 miles per hour. She told us to pack in preparation for a possible evacuation.

Being a compliant 75 year old father, I woke my wife, and together we put enough clothes into the car as if we were packing for a three day weekend get-a-way. It never really entered my mind that we might actually be in danger.

Then we lost power. Still not truly concerned, partly because of our 33 year history of living in the house without incident and partly because there were no visible signs yet of any danger, we decided to go to my daughter's condo, which is in a much more protected part of Ventura. She also was without power.

A couple hours later I decided to return home to assess the danger.

By this time it was clear from the TV news coverage that the Thomas wildfire was totally out of control, but hey, it was still 14 miles east of us.

So I arrive at my house, skies behind me to the east were dark but the Santa Ana's were still howling. However, power was restored.

I returned to my daughter's condo, and since her power was still out, we decided we would all moved back to my home.

As we returned with both cars, there was a slight red glow in the distant east that gave me some concern.

The Thomas fire traveled 14 miles to my home in about an hour.

Before I knew it, the firemen were in the streets issuing immediate emergency mandatory evacuation  orders. Our packed three day weekend get-a-way bag was already in the car.

We sent our daughter back to her condo but my wife and I decided to stay and try to save our home; we started spraying down the dry vegetation, dry not only because of the drought but also because of the very low humidity of the Santa Ana east winds off the desert over the previous days.

Within 10 to 15 minutes after starting to water everything down, the first of the red embers began to land on our property with the fire coming up the hill from behind us, over the top of the property above us.

We continued to hose down the hot embers until they became so numerous, and with the 70 mile an hour winds behind them, it became impossible to stay and fight any longer. We could only hope our home could survive the snowstorm of red hot embers.

At that point we quickly disconnected our two computer's CPUs, put them in the trunk, grabbed my wife's three pet chickens, threw them in the back seat and evacuated the property.

As we evacuated that time there were at least 3 homes within a block fully engulfed in flames.

We once again returned to my daughter's condo.

Around the corner from the condo is a Marie Callender's; and from there I could see my general neighborhood. Sitting on the planter at Marie Callender's I could see my neighborhood getting brighter and brighter. Finally I could not take it any longer so I again returned to the property. There were no barricades because all the first responders were very active in the field and they did not have the resources for traffic control. At that point in time there was only the local fire departments responding; that response has now grown to over 4,000 fire fighters from all across the United States.

As I pulled into my driveway (we lived on a flag lot with seven adjoining neighbors), the firemen were already half way up my long driveway and I could see flames beginning to lick out from under the eve of my home on one corner.

I asked the fireman if they could save my home and the response was "We are going to try", but as I watched, I saw their attention focus on the multiple neighbor's homes that were not already on fire. Within a couple of minutes, the fireman returned with the sad news "We don't have the resources to protect the properties not on fire and fight the fire on your home.  I'm sorry but your home can not be saved".

The video at the beginning of this post is our home as I was leaving the driveway, about three minutes after first seeing the flames at the corner of my home.

It was at that time, I realized I had the unenviable task, of returning to my daughter's condo to inform my wife and daughter of the dreadful outcome.

Since then our mantra has been "10 minutes at a time".

After pictures:

After videos:

The Ask:

After meeting with my insurance adjuster  and reviewing what I thought would be adequate coverage, I spoke with my architect, contractor and realtor friends. It is apparent I am grossly under insured.

They point out that to be permitted to rebuild my home I will need:

An architect that will cost me 10% of my rebuild costs.

A General Contractor that will cost me 20% of my rebuild costs.

And other various licensed professionals and permits that will cost me about 20% of my rebuild costs.

For a total of 50% of the rebuild costs being required before the first shovel of dirt is turned.

Best estimates so far is that I will be $300,000 to $500,000 short of being able to rebuild (assuming my slab and foundation are still intact, otherwise it could be another $100,000).

So all at once what I thought would be adequate coverage turns out to be totally inadequate.

We spent 33 years in our home and had finally paid off the mortgage. It was my ticket to retirement and my legacy to my wife and children.

At 75 years of age I am still working, as is my wife, but we have just seen our last 33 years of work go up in smoke.

I have worked since I was a teenager, as has my wife. We have never had to ask for charity ever in our lives, nor have we ever needed any kind of governmental assistance.

It is very humbling to find ourselves in this position of relying on the kind generosity of people, many if not most of whom I do not know.

So the first ask is for your financial assistance if you feel impelled to do so. It will be greatly appreciated.

The second ask, equally or maybe even more importantly, is to ask you to share this effort on all your social platforms in the hopes than many hands make this heavy lift easier.

The Irreplaceable:

Every 15 minutes or so it seems I remember another $1,000 item we lost.

But every 5 minutes or so I remember another irreplaceable item, like my kids video tapes from the time they were born until now.

Like the many years of photos that got left behind, even though we did save some of them.

Like the drawing of our family my daughter did when she was 5 years old; simple stick figures with a few vertical lines on top of my bald head and when asked what they were,  she stated "They are daddy itty bitty top hairs"; proudly framed and hung on our home's wall but sadly left behind in our hurry to evacuate.

This fire has taught me the true value of cloud storage; I would encourage everyone to set up a Dropbox account and load all your valuable pictures to the cloud.

-Bob Donaldson & Jacqueline Boswell
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Organizer and beneficiary

Kevin Smart 
Ventura, CA
Bob Donaldson 
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