Memorial held for Rancho Santa Fe home lost in fire


On Friday, May 31 a Rancho Santa Fe family held an emotional memorial service for their family home, which was destroyed in a fire in April.

For 54 years, the home had been a piece of the Brown family’s history—the Browns and their four boys moved into the house on a quiet, breezy spot on the west side of the Covenant in 1965.

Arthur Brown has been living in his childhood home for the last nine years with his wife Rebecca and son Alex, now a senior at Torrey Pines High School. The memorial was a way to pay tribute to what remained of the Camino Privado home and to honor the memory of his mother Leanne, who lived in the home until she passed away in 2009.

“It was a comfortable old house,” said Brown, recalling the big windows that offered beautiful panoramic ocean views and how his mother would go all out to decorate at Christmas-time. “It was a home. It was very important to my mother.
We always felt very safe and comfortable.”

When Brown was growing up, the home was always filled with visitors and friends as they had an open door policy, a policy that continued when his family moved in—his place was often the spot where Alex’s friends would congregate.

On Friday, April 26, Brown had gone to bed around 9 p.m. and around 10 p.m. was jolted awake by the sound of breaking glass. His son was not at home and his wife, a certified nurse midwife, was at work.

Brown went into the living room to find the horrifying sight of flames burning through the rest of the house. His hair singed from the heat of the fire, he was just able to grab his glasses, keys and phone as he rushed outside.

At about 10:13 p.m., fire crews responded to find the home fully engulfed in flames and it was not safe to enter the structure. “The house was too far gone,” Brown said.

Firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading beyond the home and put out the fire in about an hour. An investigation into the fire has found the cause to be undeterminable—Brown said it is possible there might have been a faulty circuit breaker.

“Our plan is to rebuild, we love where we are in Rancho Santa Fe,” Brown said, hoping that the new home captures the old home’s open floor plan with those big wide views and perhaps enlarging the bedrooms that were a little small in the home built back in 1959.

On May 31, Father Leland Jones of St John’s Episcopal Church in Fallbrook led the memorial ceremony with help from Jamall Calloway, a theology professor at University of San Diego. About 50 people attended the memorial ceremony, including Bill Wood, whom Arthur has known since they were first graders at Rancho Santa Fe School (now R. Roger Rowe) and Chuck Swanson, a close family friend since the 1960s.

The Browns are now living at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, where Rebecca and Arthur had their rehearsal dinner before their 1994 wedding.

“Twenty-five years later, we’re back where we started,” said Brown.

Back then they promised “for better or for worse” and Brown said while this has been the worse, they are looking ahead to the better.

As a part of Friday’s service, the couple renewed their vows.