Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This


Malibu Fire Victims Share Their Stories

Stories like these are only possible with your help!
You have the power to keep local news strong for the coming months. Your financial support today keeps our reporters ready to meet the needs of our city. Thank you for investing in your community.

All of Malibu was ordered to evacuate Friday as the Woolsey Fire approached, before burning through and causing significant damage.

Looking at Malibu on Saturday, there was destruction throughout, but many buildings survived. Despite some reports, Malibu High School appeared to be mostly untouched, though parts of its construction site had burned.

We spoke with some of those affected by the fire. Here are their stories, along with photos showing some of what's left behind.

(Photo by Emma Cooper)
Support for LAist comes from


(Photo by Emma Cooper)

Late Friday morning, Emma Cooper watched flames from the Woolsey Fire crest on the hills above her condo near Zumirez Drive in Malibu.

"We started to pack up the car, but didn't take it seriously, because the winds didn't seem to be blowing towards us," Cooper said.

But the flames came down Kanan Road quickly. She and her father, Chris Cooper, grabbed two hoses and began spraying down their unit.

Palm trees burned and flames licked their patio. Emma and Chris flagged down a firetruck and implored firefighters to help them.

"We are really lucky, because we stayed and fought for firetrucks," Emma Cooper said. "There is some damage, but hopefully it was just the patio and smoke damage."

Emma Cooper was now in the Palisades, waiting to be allowed back in.

Their family has lived in Malibu since the 1960s. Chris Cooper lost a home in a 1971 fire.

The Paradise Cove Beach Cafe is still standing in Malibu. Owner Tim Morris stayed into the night as the Woolsey Fire came within a couple hundred yards of the restaurant. (Courtesy Tim Morris)
Support for LAist comes from


Tim Morris stayed to keep flames from reaching his family's business, the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe. He said the fire was unpredictable, and officials told him to leave.

"I asked one of the battalion chiefs where the front line was, and there just wasn't one," Morris said. "It was coming from every direction but the sea."

Morris said the fire came within roughly 200 yards of his restaurant, but he and about a dozen others were able to hold it back. The day after, he said the destruction is like nothing he's ever seen.

"I've been through a couple fires in Malibu. Nothing near as bad as this," he said. "Malibu is devastated. It's completely devastated."

In 1993, more than 200 homes were lost in Malibu thanks to the Old Topanga Fire. The exact number of homes lost in the Woolsey Fire remains to be seen, but there are clearly at least dozens.

Woolsey Fire destruction as seen in Malibu on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Photo by Matt Tinoco/LAist)


Mikke Pierson is one of Malibu's newest council members, winning his seat just Tuesday night.

The fire made it to his neighborhood, where he stood behind with his son to battle the flames.

"We had fire hoses, we had some equipment, and when it came roaring down the canyon, we just made our stand and battled as best we could," Pierson said. "And it backed us up into the neighborhood as it was trying to go around us, and we saved as many as we could."

They lost about 20 homes -- but may have saved over 200, according to Pierson.

He's also been checking on homes for others who've evacuated.

"There are certain streets that are just gone -- certain neighborhoods that are mostly gone and then surprisingly, you'll come upon a street that's fine," Pierson said. "So fire's an interesting thing, how it'll take one house and not the neighbor, and take the one after."

Horses are tied to lifeguard booths on the beach in Malibu. (Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP)


Some evacuees were stopped at a gas station at PCH and Sunset Boulevard on Friday. Terry Moore was happy he made it out of Agoura Hills with his loved ones: his wife, two daughters, and his animals.

"Three horses, four dogs, a tortoise -- we've got some goats in there, we have about five goats," Moore said.

They were all packed in a trailer and a truck, along with some saddles and clothes for the family. Pumping gas was the first time he'd had to think about leaving his home.

"You see and you read about this, and you never think it's going to happen to you, and then when you have to evacuate, a lot of emotion goes through your mind," Moore said.

He brought some food for the animals, but didn't know exactly where he'd be able to keep them. Or even where he was going to spend the night.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, Kristen Muller, Matt Tinoco, David Wagner, Ryan Fonseca, Elizabeth Muñoz, and Mike Roe contributed to this story.

Correction: In an earlier version of this story we incorrectly reported Mikke Pierson's name. LAist regrets the error.

Hey, thanks. You read the entire story. And we love you for that. Here at LAist, our goal is to cover the stories that matter to you, not advertisers. We don't have paywalls, but we do have payments (aka bills). So if you love independent, local journalism, join us. Let's make the world a better place, together. Donate now.