Christmas Tale Demonstrates Hastings Ranch Holiday Spirit

A Hastings Ranch family lost everything to a house fire, but joined in the annual area's Christmas lights display to keep a beloved neighborhood tradition — and the holiday spirit — burning bright.

Published : Monday, December 24, 2018 | 5:05 AM

Upper Hastings Ranch association neighbors gathered December 18, 2018 to award Jill and Tim Schofield the "Red Bell" award for participating in the decades-old Christmas Light Up tradition, despite having lost their home to fire earlier this year.

Jill and Tim Schofield, British ex-pats, had lived in their home on Alegria Street in Hastings Ranch at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, for more than 34 years.

Then last spring, on the afternoon of April 19, a fire broke out in their house. Tim, who works at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was at work, while Jill was at the library in Sierra Madre.

“I think it was an electrical fire,” recalled Perry Helm, a block captain for the 46-block Hastings Ranch neighborhood. “It was burning in the house and burning up all the oxygen in there, and all of a sudden the windows start popping out.”

Neighbor Suzi Farrell was out for a walk with a friend at the time. They saw the huge columns of dark gray smoke pouring out of the chimney and windows of the house. She hurried back up the street and started screaming for another neighbor, Marco, listed on the Neighborhood Skill Inventory Sheet as a handyman with a garage full of tools. His son came running out of their house.

Farrell instructed him to call 911 and get his father to come to the burning house.

Upper Hastings Ranch Association Block Captain Perry Helm with Tim and Jill Schofield at the "Red Bell" awards ceremony on December 18, 2018.

Farrell’s friend went immediately to the house behind the Schofields to alert them to the fire danger. The Schofield’s next door neighbors were out of town, but Farrell luckily had their gate key in her pocket to get their mail.

Marco grabbed his two fire extinguishers but it was quickly apparent that the fire was already out of control.

Between Suzi and Marco, they were able to get both hoses going to at least keep the fire from coming over the fence.

Meanwhile, Suzi headed back out to the street and was met by a Pasadena police officer, who sent her to her house across the street to call Jill at the library.

Fire units from Pasadena Fire and several local departments all arrived quickly to fight the blaze. By the time Jill and Tim arrived home, crews were working hard to save what they could of their family home.

Pasadena Interim Public Information Officer Lisa Derderian was on hand at the scene when Tim and Jill arrived. She was supportive, and among her first recommendations was that the Schofields should call their insurance company immediately and request “board up” service for that day.

Because of the Map Your Neighborhood program developed over the last few years by the Upper Hastings Ranch Neighborhood Association, Perry knew that the teen’s dad was a handyman. With tools.

Following the fire, the house was declared a total loss. Plans approvals for the new home construction stretched through the spring and on through the summer, and have only recently been approved by the City.

Demolition of the destroyed home has now, finally, begun.

Meanwhile, the neighborhood’s annual “Christmas Light Up!” event was quickly approaching. The annual home holiday decorating event has run consistently since 1956, said Perry.

So, the Schofields, good neighbors in the close-knit community, wrapped their parkway tree with lights and ran strands of lights all around the lot fencing.

Helpful neighbors helped them rig up electricity, and with that, on went the lights.

“They actually took part in our neighborhood light up,” said Perry, “even though they didn’t even have a home. That’s what this was all about. It shows that there’s still some real good feelings out there.”

The neighborhood’s Map Your Neighborhood disaster preparedness program endorsed by the city of Pasadena and the Pasadena of Fire Department, layers a map of the various neighborhoods over a map of all of Hastings Ranch. There, neighbors can find services, friends and information about their neighborhood.

That’s how Tim and Jill’s neighbor knew that a handyman, with fire extinguishers, no less, lived across the street.

“We came together as a neighborhood family,” said Farrell, “and thanks to the Earthquake/Disaster Preparedness training several of us have been involved in, we were able to keep this horrid fire contained to just one property.”

For their neighborhood holiday efforts and spirit, Tim and Jill were awarded the special “Red Bell” by the Upper Hastings Ranch Association.

Look for it next season hanging in the yard of their new house.