It’s bad enough to lose one family home in the Glass Fire, but for one Deer Park family, the loss was doubly felt.
Michelle Mutrux and Aaron Bauman lost their longtime house on Sunnyside Road during the Sept. 27 disaster. Just 100 yards away, Mutrux’s mother Joy Sacks, age 83, lost her mobile home the same day.
Effectively homeless, all three are now coming to terms with their next steps in their recovery.
“I’ve been in an altered state,” said Mutrux in a phone interview last week. She’d lived in her home on Sunnyside Road, near St. Helena Hospital, for more than 30 years. “It’s the one and only home that I’ve owned in my life.”
She described a home full of decades of family keepsakes and memories. “My father died in that house, and my daughter was born in that same house. It’s really our family place. Now everything’s destroyed,” she said.
Mutrux and Bauman used to own the Wappo Bar and Bistro, and Wappo Taco in Calistoga. Today, she works as a private chef. Aaron, who is a paraplegic, was driving for Uber before COVID-19 started.
Mutrux said her mother was the first to alert her to the threat of the fire. During the LNU fire of August, the family had packed up some important items, but didn’t have to evacuate.
She wasn’t sure what to expect this time.
“The wind was weird,” she said. “It kept changing.” Just in case, Mutrux began watering her roof and extensive gardens.
It wouldn’t be enough. Around 3 a.m. on that Sunday, she awoke to the sounds of propane tanks exploding.
“I went outside and there was a line of firefighters and trucks” on Sunnyside Road. “The firefighters said to me, ‘You have 5 minutes to get out of here.’”
Danger was closing in.
“I could see it was just one block away,” she said of the fire. Gathering her mother, husband and dogs (her cats were nowhere to be found), they left the neighborhood and headed towards Silverado Trail.
To her horror, the fire was on both sides of Deer Park Road at that point and burning both sides of Silverado Trail. “I just couldn’t believe it,” she said.
“I felt like a very foolish woman at that point, risking the lives of my husband” and mother. She’s thankful they left when they did because “I don’t think we could have survived” otherwise.
The family drove to Napa and slept in the Home Depot parking lot. Next they checked into the Westin Verasa, a hotel that would accommodate their dogs.
They’d soon hear the worst news. “My neighborhood was the hardest hit,” she said. Out of 16 homes, only one is still standing. About a dozen mobile homes, including the one where her mother lived, were also destroyed by the fire.
On top of all of that, Mutrux had limited fire insurance. “It doesn’t cover my mortgage,” which is $3,300 per month, she said. As of Tuesday, she had yet to connect with her insurer. “My adjustor seems overwhelmed. He’s going all over the state; there are so many fires.”
On Tuesday, she planned to look at houses for rent. That’s tricky because the family needs a home that can accommodate her husband and four dogs.
“Sadly, I think my mom’s going to leave and go to my sister’s in the Washington, D.C. area,” she said.
Her mom is tough, she said, but “I think she misses her beautiful things that she collected” over a lifetime. Sacks is an artist and lost most of her artwork.
“I told her you’re going to have to make new art,” said her daughter.
Mutrux still returns to Sunnyside Road regularly to leave cat food in hopes of reuniting with her cats, Lily and Sancho. She stops and plays a wooden recorder that the cats would recognize.
“There’s nothing much left of my home,” she said. The fire was so hot it twisted and warped metal and glass and melted parts of her pool.
Her daughter, Maya Bauman, set up a GoFundMe account to help with the recovery.
“Bless her heart,” said Mutrux. “I’m so amazed that the outpouring of goodwill from my community and my relatives,” high school friends and people she hasn’t heard from in decades.
“I do have hope that it’s all going to work out,” she said.
Photos: The Glass Fire’s aftermath in Deer Park
Watch now: Napa’s Salvation Army feeds those in need during wildfires
You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or email@example.com