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Faces of the Fire: Husband, Wife Look on Sunny Side of Life

This is what remains of the Janiec residence on Glendora Avenue. Image courtesy of the Janiec family.
This is what remains of the Janiec residence on Glendora Avenue. Image courtesy of the Janiec family.
Two pairs of socks, a key and a box of photos.

Those were pretty much all Andy Janiec and his wife, Slawka, were able to save before fleeing their home, which burned to the ground in the Colby Fire, Jan. 16.

Despite losing most of their possessions, their home and countless memories, the Janiecs live with an infectious positivity after reminding themselves of the friendships and generosity that have so much more meaning after this disaster.

"It's so important in moments like this, you don't think about the big stuff. The little things have a completely different meaning in life," Andy Janiec said as he sat in the main office of his business, Andy's Auto Center, Jan. 22. "I always appreciate everything in my life. I always teach my kids and my family to enjoy what you have. When you miss it, it's too late."

The whirring of the fire fighting helicopters awoke Andy in his home, in the 1100 block of North Glendora Avenue. As he went outside to see what was going on, he saw the ominous blanket of dark smoke rising from the east.

Andy and his wife immediately attempted to notify their neighbors, making phone calls to homes and knocking on doors to help their friends to leave.

Eventually, fire fighters approached and asked the Janiecs to evacuate immediately, Andy said.

The Janiecs left their driveway by 7:15 a.m. It was over two hours later that a reporter from a Los Angeles news station showed them the sad outcome of their home. A Los Angeles County Fire Fighter would later confirm that their home was gone, Andy said.

Later as the Janiecs were allowed back up Glendora Avenue, they realized that two other homes were gone, Andy said as he displayed pictures of a pile of rubble where their home once stood. One picture showed a barren landscape that once was a tree-filled mountainside.

"I was always joking that I was the luckiest bum in the world, that I could sit down in my house and eat breakfast and see the park," Andy said.

Many friends have offered to take in the Janiecs in the days after they lost their home. The Janiecs stayed in a neighbor's house that was untouched by the fire. Andy and Slawka stayed at the home of at least two more friends, most recently in Covina.

Eventually, long-time friend Erica Falcon established a donation site through gofundme.com [http://www.gofundme.com/6ce6w4] to help pay for some of the Janiec's expenses. The site has raised $495 so far, with a goal of $5,000.

"It's hard to run a business. Right now we have a lot of friends coming, a lot of customers, a lot of adjusters. It's very difficult, but we try to keep our chin up. Everybody comes and feels sorry for us," Janiec said. "We'll miss a lot of stuff, but nobody got hurt. That's how I feel."

Gene Morrill, owner of Certified Automotive in Glendora, heard of the Janiecs' loss and, through the help of a friend, donated a large RV to Andy and his wife.

The generosity and caring from friends and the community has helped the Janiecs maintain their positive mindset.

"We have a pretty different outlook on life. A lot of people come here expecting us to be down. We're not down. We have only to go up right now. Positive thinking keeps us alive, so we can go on and create better lives. That's how I feel," Andy said.
rubberband January 29, 2014 at 05:20 PM
What a good attitude and outlook. Wish them the best and a speedy recovery.

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