SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) – A newly-married couple was one of many families who lost their home when the Musset Bayou wildfire ripped through Walton County on Florida’s Emerald Coast last week.
The Stephensons were married back in November and moved to the Thompson Woods neighborhood in Santa Rosa Beach shortly after.
“We’re starting to build our new life together and this was our first home,” Jon Stephenson said.
The evening of the fire, he looked outside to see if they could see any smoke. What he saw instead was officials evacuating their neighborhood.
“It really felt like the whole Northwest Florida was on fire at that moment,” said Stephenson.
They grabbed what they could.
“So basically we’re just leaving everything behind and getting out with our lives and that’s what we’re so grateful for,” said Stephenson.
The couple then left their home, even locking the door, in hopes of returning soon.
“I just remember looking back and seeing the entire forest just engulfed in flames, and you can see how close the forest is to the house, and at that point, I knew it was not gonna be good,” said Stephenson.
They went to a friend’s house in Point Washington for shelter.
While not being able to return to their neighborhood for several days, they did see drone footage online of their home that was burned to the ground.
“It was actually very nice to have the drone footage because it allowed us to get most of our grieving and most of the shock of the situation out in private, in that room that we had to ourselves,” said Stephenson.
The couple has since been searching through the rubble for something many take for granted.
“There’s absolutely nothing left…we started out hoping we could find my wedding ring but there’s no way,” said Stephenson.
Now they must decide what’s next.
“There’s a side of me that just wants to say let’s just settle all the insurance and everything and then just start fresh somewhere else and try to get rid of the bad memories,” said Stephenson.
Memories that will be with them for a lifetime..