Saying goodbye to a friend in the driveway after sunset last week when the dogs raced up the hill behind the house to the deer (and bobcat and coyote) trail. They ran around a bit and then raced down, Walt first, followed by the Wild Puppy. They streaked past the humans, the puppy overtaking Walt in the process, and then BOOM, a sound like an explosion.
It's dark and hard to see. Walt reappears but there's no sign of Daisy so I walk to the rear courtyard and the big wooden gate has blown closed in a slight breeze. Except there's a hole in the middle where a board is missing, a Labrador-sized hole that, it turns out, was created by Daisy when she ran directly into and THROUGH the door and broke it open with her giant puppy head. Was she hurt? No. In fact, she was patiently waiting for us on the other side, eager for us to admire her handiwork and set her free. Which we did.
She's fine, no ill-effects, no trauma. (Can't say the same for her human.) In fact the Wild Puppy appears to have no memory of the event at all, although both she and Walt have quickly become connoisseurs of this new window on their world.
The little cottage was on one of the large, rural properties you see in Malibu, this one dating back to the 1970s. The front house was a rambling California ranch surrounded by an acre of beautiful and eccentric gardens. Like almost ever single house on the street -- really, it's apocalyptic -- the sweet retro ranch is gone.
With so much of the landscape here changed after the fires, it's a profound relief to be around things that stayed the same.
My previous home, tucked into the hills above Zuma. It was my favorite of all the places I've ever lived.
Everything is different here post-fire, including the residents of the Pepperdine ponds. Gone for now are the scores of ducks and in their place are a surprising number of cormorants, swimming and diving and keeping a wary eye on all visitors, particularly the four-legged ones.
Walt is very happy to offer a hiatus from the heartbreak of fire coverage and remind us all that he's a handsome (and newly-aerodynamic) border collie who's more than ready to chase a ball.
A lot of the action these days is up, up in the treetops and rooftops and at the tops of telephone and electrical poles as hundreds of men (and a few women) defy gravity to rewire the burn area, which is shockingly vast.
Our household is registered with SCE for text message alerts regarding power outages, but not a peep from them about this one. If you search a bit, you can find info about it on the City of Malibu web site's alert center. We learned about it via KNX1070 on Twitter.
Meanwhile, here's Malibu Canyon Road yesterday, near the Rindge Dam, where drifts of fire retardant color the steep mountain slopes.
A lot of questions are coming in regarding which areas have burned and which have been spared. Here's a before-and-after satellite map of the Woolsey Fire burn area. But before you search, be sure you really want to know the answer. These images are brutal.
As an antidote, here's Walter. He was kind of shaggy and a bit dirty while we were being house guests during the fire evacuation so I took him to a groomer in West LA. She somehow misunderstood when I asked her to clip his coat to 3/4 of an inch and instead shaved him practically bald. He's now extremely aerodynamic. And a little chilly.
The evacuation zone in Malibu shrinks a bit every day and as the green zone expands, things begin to feel more normal. Here at Casa de LOUD!, which was so eerily quiet during the shut-down that the shore break sounded like canon fire, we're hearing traffic again. Lots of stores and restaurants have re-opened and everywhere you go, people are sharing joyous and tearful reunions.
The command center at the Chili Cook-off grounds remains massive, but the mix of vehicles has shifted. The vivid red, yellow and green of first responders has given way to the white and beige of repair trucks, all bristling with cranes and winches and telescoping ladders. There are tankers and earth movers and supply rigs, enormous flatbeds loaded with backhoes and bulldozers, everything you need to get a city back up and running. About an hour ago, someone ran a flag up one of the cranes.
The post office is closed but the library is open. So are the urgent care and the veterinary clinic. Many traffic signals are working again. Pelotons of cyclists are blowing through, breathing hard in the not-great air. There's still a firm-but-polite blockade preventing civilian vehicles from going any further north on PCH than Corral Canyon. The best map of the ever-shifting green zone that I've found, which appears to be updated as soon as the evacuation areas change, is here at the CalFire web site.
The semi-secret shortcuts that made it possible to slip the roadblocks yesterday and get to the Ventura County line are blockaded today. It was still possible to get to Bluffs Park, though, which gives you a scary-good look at how thoroughly the hills have burned. So here's a (sorry, wobbly) video of the fire scar in hills behind Pepperdine.
Here's the same area with a bit more zoom (and wobble).
It's now a week since the the Woolsey Fire jumped the 101 freeway and raced our way. We have power but no cell service or wifi. This post goes up thanks to a kind neighbor. More photos below.
Just a portion of Malibu has been reopened to residents. There's a checkpoint on PCH near Topanga, and only people within a very small area of eastern Malibu are getting in. You need to show a California drivers license and proof of your specific address.
All of the canyon roads, large and small, are closed to all but rescue and repair vehicles, and there are literally hundreds of those here right now. Sheriffs deputies from throughout LA and the surrounding counties are parked in front of all canyon and side streets, pleasant but firm about not letting anyone in.
There's a hard close on northbound PCH traffic at Webb Way, across from the Civic Center. You can get into the Ralphs shopping center, but only the grocery store is open, and for limited hours. They're working with a very small staff, so only a few shoppers at a time are allowed in.
Several of the local restaurants are open and many of them are refusing to accept payment, even when you try to insist. The ATMs here are out of cash, and the gas stations are all closed. During each shift change for the sheriff's deputies stationed here, convoys of police cars race along pch, sirens blaring. It's equal parts alarming and reassuring. At Zuma Beach, the horses and lamas are gone, and the tips of the sand dunes are black with soot.
Here are some photos from last night and again this morning. Today I went super early so as not to get in anyone's way. Scores of homes burned but I couldn't bear to photograph them. Instead, here are some of the wild places and the public places that regular Malibu visitors will know.
A command center has been established at the Chili Cook-off grounds:
Everywhere you go there are convoys of first responders, paramedics and police and sheriffs deputies, fire trucks from throughout the state and throughout the west (this morning I saw LA, OC, Arcadia, Idyllwild, Austin, Texas, Ventura, and many more). Gas and power crews are working at every burned light pole, every gas main. Tanker trucks and bulldozers are heading into the scorched hills.
There are thank you notes everywhere:
Here's Malibu Seafood -- you can see how close the fires came.
That whole canyon was hit hard:
This is near the Malibu Playhouse, which looked OK. Couldn't get close enough to be certain:
Several utilities have set up a command center at Pavilions. The market is closed, but they've set out shopping carts overflowing with staples for anyone in need. They even thought to leave out a pile of grocery bags:
This is near El Matador state beach:
And here's Leo Carrillo, on the land side:
And the Leo Carrillo visitors center:
This is near Yerba Buena and Neptunes Net:
It takes a minute to realize that a lot of the power poles are simply gone:
And to the south, a constant:
Today at a dog park on the west side, where I brought Walt and Daisy to work off some of their bewilderment, a young man told me that when he went sailing with friends off the Malibu coast yesterday, far from shore, they saw bees, many thousands of them, randomly flying and dropping into the sea.
Here's the last shot I took of Malibu on Friday. The only time PCH ever looks like this is during a major disaster.
Thank you so much to everyone who has emailed to check in on us. We are safe and staying with friends. But so many of our friends and neighbors have lost everything and it turns out to be impossible for the scope of it all to sink in. If anyone remembers the two mobile home I wrote about renovating in Seminole Springs, they're gone, along with all of the houses in the upper park.
This photo is by Malibu resident Katherine Cooper, who sent it to reporter Whitney Ashton, of NBCLA. You can see it, along with the photog's comments, on twitter here.
* 2:27 pm
All of Malibu from Ventura County line to east of Topanga now under evacuation orders. Winds picked up and fire exploded in the last half hour. Have never seen it burn so far east, or so fast. We are leaving.
God bless the first responders and keep them safe.
The winds have died down here at the coast as the fires follow their traditional path from the valleys through the mountains and down to the sea.
We're just a hair outside of the evacuation zone but are packed up and ready in case that changes. Praying for everyone in all of today's mind-boggling number of fire zones.
At the intersection of PCH and Webb Way this morning, where the groups of supporters camped out at each of the four corners just kept growing.
This feels about right for the start of this week. After parking, we doubled back and persuaded the bird, who had been at it for at least two head-banging minutes, to give up on the car and try tilting at something close to his own size.
When it gets toasty on the flats of Bluffs Park, which is pretty much any time the sun is out and the temps go above 70, imho, this bit of shade is an oasis.