Clay Matthews, Aaron Rodgers express support for wildfire victims

Jim Owczarski
Packers News
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A plane drops a load of water on one of the hot spots threatening property in Agoura Hills on Friday.

GREEN BAY – Clay Matthews went to sleep Friday night not knowing if his family, or his home, were safe as wildfires spread across Southern California.

The Green Bay Packers linebacker said after Sunday’s victory over the Miami Dolphins that he lost contact with his parents Clay Jr. and Leslie, as they were part of many communities that were forced to evacuate their homes due to the fires.

Matthews also said the fires reached entryway to the community in which he is building a home. After leaving Lambeau Field on Friday afternoon, he spent six hours watching local news from Los Angeles for updates, but he said he went to bed not knowing what news he may wake up to.

A social media group helped him establish contact with family and friends, including his parents, but the California native said his mind was on the people of his home cities and state as they still battle the fires.

“With the mandatory evacuation, I had no one to report on (what happened),” Matthews said. “Furthermore, with all the fires in which they had, the firefighters were all spread out. ... I told my wife when we went to sleep, I said we’re really going to have a house in the morning or not. Fortunately, on Saturday my neighbor sent me a picture of the house and it’s still standing. I’m sure there’s a little bit of damage with embers and all that.

“It’s terrifying. Those Santa Ana's (winds), it’s not a good deal. I know there’s been a couple lives lost and a bunch of homes and structures burnt down. Unfortunately it’s one of those natural disasters that California has to deal with. It’s truly unfortunate. But hopefully firefighters and responders can get a handle on this thing soon and if the weather permits start getting this under control.”

In his postgame news conference, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wore a baseball hat with the Santa Monica Fire Department logo on it. He also had friends who were forced to evacuate.

“It's been a tough week, it has,” Rodgers said. “I've been on the phone with a lot of folks close to me in northern California and in southern California. I had the fortune to meet some great firefighters from Santa Monica in the offseason. They sent me this hat, and I was thinking in my house today, this was the only paraphernalia I had that could represent my support for those folks who are fighting the fires. My heart goes out to the great people of Paradise, California. Growing up in Chico, I spent a great deal of time up there, I played a lot of football and basketball and sports up in Paradise, basically lived in Magalia at one point, which is an even tinier town off of Paradise. The devastation there, is tough.

“Hearing the stories of people running down the highways to avoid the fire. Knowing that people burned alive in their cars. It's heartbreaking, for sure, and then you have a fire in my adopted home of southern California, so it's been a tough week for sure, and myself and the guys from northern California, our thoughts and our prayers are with those folks. Not only the great firefighters fighting the fire, but all the people displaced. In my home area, Butte County, and then obviously down south in the L.A. area.”

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