Northern California fire victims lose second home in Ventura

ByLaura Anthony via KGO logo
Saturday, December 9, 2017
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What is is they say about lightning? Doesn't strike twice? Well, fires do. Just ask Dr. Antonio Wong and his wife Pratima.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. -- The Wong family lost their home in Santa Rosa during the North Bay fires just months ago, and now they've lost their second home in Ventura in the devastating Thomas Fire.

Like thousands of others, Antonio and Pratima Wong and their 19-year-old son had to evacuate in a hurry from their Fountain Grove neighborhood in Northern California two months ago.

"I looked across the street and there was like a 20-foot tall tree that was lit up like a torch. So then I realized, 'Oh, this is really bad,'" said Antonio.

Their house on Rocky Point Way was one of hundreds to burn to the ground in the North Bay fires. They couldn't even get up the road to see it for two weeks.

"It's hard to see the front view where you just see the stairs going up to nothing," said Antonio.

That was bad enough, but then it happened again.

The Wongs only moved to Santa Rosa six months ago from Southern California. They left their house in Ventura behind, deciding to rent it rather than sell it, thinking maybe they'd return to it someday as a retirement home.

On Tuesday, that house in Ventura burned to the ground in the massive Thomas Fire. The Wongs saw a video of it engulfed in flames.

"It was surreal, more like numb, you know? Did this really happen to us?" said Pratima, through her tears. "For the second time, it's a lot harder. We didn't know it could happen."

To make matters worse, the Wongs learned their insurance agent gave them some bad advice and they were under-insured in both places.

"That's the first thing I thought about when the fire happened, 'Oh my God...I haven't increased my insurance down there,'" explained Antonio.

While the Wongs figure out whether they can afford to rebuild either house, they also have to decide if they want to.

"The road to recovery is long," an emotional Pratima said. "It might be hard, but we'll get there."