Remembering the flames of Malibu, 1967

By Carol Woodman

Malibu, the land of sun, sand and movie stars. We had moved from New Jersey and were enthralled with the easy way of life. The schools were within walking distance and Zuma Beach was just across the road. In late September we were warned by our neighbors to keep an eye out for a fire cloud, as on occasion there were grass fires due to the Santa Ana winds which roared over the mountains in late September and October.

It happened. One afternoon I could see a huge black cloud moving over the hill, so following my neighbor’s instructions, I filled up the bathtubs, pails and everything that would hold water and then shoved towels and cloths into the buckets. There would be no water pressure once the firemen turned on their hoses. The cloud kept moving our way, setting the dry grass on fire. My neighbor and I rushed over to the school to get the children. My ninth grade son and two friends had already jumped out a bathroom window and were on their way to our house. The high school in Santa Monica let the Malibu kids out and my son walked 10 miles to get home.

The fire was moving very fast. I took the younger children, the dog and two horses down to the beach where other families were gathering and a friend took charge for me.

I returned to the house, where two boys were now on the roof with pails; more water pots had been placed around the house to put out fire brands that landed under the eaves. The smoke was now very thick and the flames almost upon us. Our eyes and throats were burning and we were covered with ash. Suddenly, the wind shifted and blew the fire back on itself. We were saved. However, the fire was now headed towards an elderly lady’s house, who had horses and dogs.

We jumped in my car and followed a sheriff’s car down the highway a couple of miles where we calmed her horses, threw water on fire brands and tried to remember to turn off the electric fence. Oops, not always. It was scary and very iffy if her place could be saved. The fire was coming too fast. We were starting to evacuate when a fire truck arrived and hosed down her barn, house and pasture. Saved. As we were driving home, we watched a house implode. When I remember Malibu, I am thankful for the winter winds and rain in Point Roberts.

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