Professor Loses House to Station Fire

Vera Iwanoff

Ken Gray, who taught theater arts at the college for 30 years, lost his home to the Station Fire on Sept. 1.

Gray had left for a vacation in Germany a couple weeks prior to the start of the fire.
Gray’s friend and former student, Travis Riner was house- sitting the cabin in Big Tujunga Canyon, which was known as Stonyvale.

The fire started on Aug. 26, and by the time Riner realized that Gray’s home was in danger, the roads had been blocked and he was unable to go up to the cabin to collect Gray’s valuables or even to save his cats.
“He tried very hard to get up there, for days, before the house burned but the fire had caused road closures,” Gray said of Riner.

Gray got back from his vacation on Aug. 29. At that point the fire had been blazing for three days. Gray had already been informed about the Station Fire and was
in touch with a fire marshall via e-mail.

Gray had arrived in his Northern California home in Emeryville to attend a play on Sunday before he would head back to his Tujunga home. He found out through an e-mail from the fire marshall that his home had burned the previous day.

“We believe that the fire got to the home on Saturday, although it officially had burned down on Sunday,” said Riner.

“It’s been a bad year,” Gray said numerous times. After suddenly losing his spouse last November he became very depressed, leading to an illness which kept him hospitalized throughout much of the month of April.

To make matters worse, Gray did not have fire insurance on his home.

He said that he didn’t know his spouse had let the fire insurance on the house lapse and in his depressed state he could do very little to deal with it. In order to reinstate his fire insurance he was told that he would have to clear the brush 300 feet away from his house even though this was land he did not own.

His other option was to pay $5,000 to reinstate the insurance and to then pay $3,000 per month to keep it, a very large sum of money to be paid especially in an area that is not usually prone to fires.

“When I was in L.A. I really loved going to that cabin,” said Gray. “I kept most of my home-base things at the cabin. It was a beautiful retreat, and losing it. losing photo albums, I had some rare books, rare collectible books.

“Mementos from my 30 years of teaching at Glendale College were in that house and they’re all gone, burned to the ground. Posters of plays that I’d done over the years, old programs from the plays that I’d done over the years, they’re gone,” said Gray.

“We all love Ken. He has taken students under his wing and become more of a father figure than a teacher and we would do anything for him,” said Riner.

“He is one of the strongest men I have ever met, going through all this. .The cabin was a beautiful place where love and happiness flourished and grew and we will miss it with all our hearts.

“We lost objects, a house, our cats and many other things in the fire but we still have our memories and each other and no one can take that from us,” said Riner of Gray.

Gray was already back in Glendale on Sept. 4 about to jump back into work, with an evening class at 6 p.m. He is currently staying with a fellow GCC professor.

On Sept. 7, a group of about 10 of Gray’s former students went up to his house and cleaned up the rubble. The event was organized by Riner and his girlfriend Tiffany Brain, whom Gray had called his “sweet children.”

Former student Marianne Tomlin, 24, was one of the students who participated.
“Ken wasn’t with us for that part of the day, but later on we visited him where he’s staying and had a barbecue,” Tomlin said. “He seemed to be in good spirits considering the circumstances.”

The Glendale Community College theater arts department has set up a fund to help Gray through these difficult times. Any contributions should be given directly to Kristine Hanna in AU 118-A. For information, call (818) 240-1000 ext. 5773 or e-mail [email protected]