Hoffman Brown, our insurance carrier is on the phone. "Are you okay? Is there anything that we could do for you?"
Our hearts raced -- never have we received a personalized phone call like this with a private cell phone number!
Our home in Carbon Beach is a Slice Of Heaven.
So, let's go, I said, let's take a drive down PCH -- discouraged by all, especially my children. I had promised not to take the drive. I had said I was going out to pick up art paper for my daughters' school project, and that I'd be back in a minute. My Slavic soul took over. Call me foolish, passionate, crazy, maybe all of the above... but I had to go see her one last time.
As I drove down PCH I was amazed at how quickly I was able to go. Roadblocks, yes, but as a Malibu resident with all the proper documentation I cleared them a few times. Smooth sailing until I hit Big Rock!
At that moment on the radio an announcement was made that Carbon Beach was in danger, that the fire was bearing down, and that roads are closed. A brisk police officer doing his job -- turning everyone away with no heart, no compassion for families trying to get through to save their homes, get to their children, and rescue their pets. A horrible experience. A woman desperate just barreled through; the officer made note of her license plate number. I said to myself, good for her. I wish I were that brave. My adrenaline took over and I decided to walk. Thank god I keep a pair of running shoes in my trunk, for just this reason, an emergency.
Here I go talking myself again, convincing myself that it's not that far, and doing the five more minutes speech to myself. Two hours and two blisters later I see my Slice Of Heaven consumed in the mix of it all. Fire trucks, smoke, and more anxiety!
My house -- can I rescue it? Absurd! What am I thinking? Take things out -- put them where? No car! On foot. Cell phone almost dead, but iPhone takes a good photo. Should I forsake the battery for an image or two? Of course! And shit -- where's my camera when I need one. I'm a photographer for god's sake.
I keep walking. Deranged, I begin to run as I see all the action in front of my home. The fires coming in over the ridge, moving quickly... running past friends' homes.
I arrive and hear my name once, twice, but I'm deranged. In the eye of the storm, my name again, someone grabs my arm -- one of my closest girlfriends appears from nowhere, soot on her face. She's been battling as well. What were we both doing here? She and her boyfriend -- a famous music producer -- were here since the morning in Sierra Retreat, saving the extensive library of music that he's worked on all his life. Car loaded, they're leaving. They're on their way out, I'm on my way in. After walking and running two hours, there was no way was I leaving. I enter my home, take what I can, and leave it three doors down. Once again I'm deranged, delusional -- call it what you will. Again I'm talking to myself, now what? My Slice of Heaven in the middle of Armageddon!
The Fire Department tapped into our hydrant. As I rush out to see what's happening, the fire was coming straight at us.
50 miles per hour winds and flames across the highway. Out of the heavens it seems as though snow is failing from the helicopter. Fire Deterrent. Surreal...
Now at a friend's house, wearing a mask. The sky is thick with ember. I'm thinking this crazy wildfire has passed, but no! It's back.
Okay, so how do I get back to my car? Good question! I say to myself... Walking is the only solution but to my rescue, a good samaritan asks if I need a lift -- Thank you, Michael. My feet shall be forever in your debt.
We missed the flames by a hair, unfortunately others where not so fortunate
Slice of Heaven still standing, at least today, October 22, 2007.
All photos by Danica except the last, which is by the Los Angeles Times.