PALM DESERT, Calif. -

Twenty-seven years of Gerald Zak's life's accumulation lies in a pile of ash.

"Oh my God, I can't say. I can't describe that. It was very scary," his neighbor Ibrahim Mahmik said.

The flames say it all. The garage of this Palm Desert home on Carmel Circle caught fire at about 5:15 p.m. Saturday.

"It came up, it went all the way through the house by way of the attic, we didn't know about it. The fire was already two stories high coming out vertically from the garage."

The fire tore through the home. Firefighters said it's a total loss.

"I used my water hose to try to help, but it didn't work," Mahmik said.

Eight engines, 33 firefighters, and a half hour later...

The calm after the storm, or some could look at it as the start of the storm -- but not Zak.

"Nothing bothers you, nothing bothers you. There aren't any problems and you handle life," Zak said.

It's a hardened and strong life perspective from a man not easily shaken, until the Red Cross showed up.

"I was totally, totally shocked. They put us in a hotel. They've got a spokesman for life. You can can't beat the American Red Cross and you need to contribute to them," Zak said.

His grandson sifted through the remains Sunday, looking for any memorable items. Zak's wife, a quilter, had just finished nine quilts she was working on since February.

"The most important thing is that if the fire came out six hours later, we're all dead. That's the most important thing. Everything else...the memories are all here (pointing to his head). The memories will never leave," Zak said.

"I see it just as a house, minor or his, we'll build that back. To lose lives that's hat's bad. It's bad to lose all that you have in life, but he has us," Mahmik said.

With Zak's attitude and his neighbors' love, it's easy to believe it's true when he said he and his family will be alright.