2 weeks after Lilac Fire, North County man copes with loss of home and wife

Posted at 7:10 PM, Dec 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-21 22:53:22-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Thursday marked two weeks since the Lilac Fire tore through parts of North County, destroying 157 structures, killing 46 horses and injuring three people. There is a lot of healing and repair that still needs to happen.


On Thursday, 10 News met 80 year-old Gary Hempstead of the Rancho Monserate Country Club senior mobile home community in Bonsall, where dozens of homes burned.


Hempstead is dealing with two devastating losses. Hempstead’s wife, Sophia, passed away a few days before the Lilac Fire destroyed the couples’ home.


He is now a widower and homeless.


"It’s hard to talk about her without tears so please forgive me if I show a little unmanliness here but I can’t help it,” he told us. “You lose a home. It’s one thing. You can replace most of that, but you can’t replace a person and what they meant to that home and to you as a person.”


To make matters more painful, Hempstead is celebrating his birthday is this week on December 21. This was the first time in 40 years that he is spent it without Sophia.


He told 10News there is only one reason he’s able to survive this much devastation.


“I talk to her every morning like she’s there," he explained.  "So, that’s how I get through it,”


Hempstead does have fire insurance. He is temporarily staying with his granddaughter.