In Malibu, California, offshore winds normally equate to perfectly-groomed waves and throngs of stoked surfers. This past weekend, those winds drove a devastating wall of flames straight into the heart of the quintessential SUP and surf community.
The Woolsey Fire sparked on Thursday afternoon and was first reported just south of Simi Valley, located about 20 miles inland of Malibu. With gusting Santa Ana winds fanning the blaze and drought-stricken vegetation fueling the flames, the fire quickly grew out of control and made an unstoppable march to the Pacific Ocean.
As the fire roared into Malibu, the entire town was put under a mandatory evacuation order and residents were forced to flee for their lives. Tragically, not everyone made it out. Two people lost their lives when flames overtook their car as they attempted to escape the inferno.
While most people evacuated quickly, famed big-wave surfer and SUP pioneer Laird Hamilton stayed behind to defend his home from the flames.
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Now I know why I learned at an early age not to mess with mother nature. There is too much ground to cover for the brave firefighters so many of the members of the community are doing their best. I want to thank my dear friend @elijah_a.b who stayed behind with me and fought the fire at my house and my neighbors. For now he helped me keep the home standing. Most importantly is that the humans are safe. First video is all around our home and the second video is what we saw as we were exiting PCH just north of Pepperdine.Aloha
According to Instagram posts, Hamilton and his friend, Elijah Allan-Blitz, were able to successfully battle back the flames and spare Laird’s home. According to a report in the New Yorker, the duo had used water from Hamilton’s pool to quell the flames.
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Last night I had the honor of getting to help my big brother @lairdhamiltonsurf protect his home from the fire. 10 years ago (almost to the day) my house burned down. It was such a privilege to help save this home that has adopted me and means so much to so many of us in this community. @gabbyreece @_reece_hamilton_ @brody_equine @kennacolbs I love you guys. Thanks for being my family. So much love and gratitude to everyone who is still out there fighting this fire
In addition to Laird, Malibu Mayor Rick Mullen also stayed behind to help battle the blaze that had engulfed his town. An 18-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Mullen described the fight as “intense” and the fire as the largest he had ever seen.
Not everyone who stayed behind was so fortunate. Malibu Mayor Pro Tem Jefferson "Zuma Jay" Wagner ended up in the Intensive Care Unit after he also tried to defend his home. While a city spokesperson said that Wagner was recovering, his home did not survive the blaze.
It was far from the only one. According to the latest tallies, some 370 structures have been destroyed and over 143 square miles scorched.
“There are people who are going to feel very relieved that their house made it and people who are devastated that their house didn’t make it,” Mayor Mullen told CNN. “We’re all going to come together because Malibu is a team, and team Malibu will ride again.”
Stay tuned for more updates on this story as we follow how this iconic community recovers from the devastating blaze. In the meantime, click here to support the victims of California’s wildfires.