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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Malibu Fire near Pepperdine - October 21, 2007

I hate Santa Ana winds. Absolutely hate them -- today is a good reason why, among others. This morning, Ashley and I were woken up abruptly at 3:00am when a few events in close succession happened. The 60-80+ mph winds (yes, hurricane force) near our home -- some 10 miles from Malibu in the same Santa Monica mountain range -- awoke us as the large gusts moved our patio furniture around our back yard.

Then, afraid that our sun umbrellas would become flying objects -- I went out side and took them down. After coming back inside and jumping in bed, our house alarm went off due to a loose door flexing with the wind. Then, after that the power went off, on, and then completely off. The funniest part of that is that one of the LED flashlights that my dad gave us -- did not work. Ironic given how their claim to fame is the batteries last so much longer than standard flashlights. The final moment before we went to sleep was a big thud -- which this morning was one of the trunks on our brush cherry tree sheared off. I did not like that tree anyways. :-)

The most upsetting episode for us this morning when our aunt called shortly after 8:00am and told us she was concerned about us to driving our to church in Malibu today. We do attend church at Malibu Presbyterian Church (back online!) in Malibu, where we have attended / been a member since 1993. While she did know it was on fire, after turning on the television to see it catch on fire shortly thereafter -- effectively a total loss in this disaster. That is obviously really devastaing and upsetting, regardless of how much I know the place is just a structure, and that the people and their relationships with Christ are what really matter. Yes, it is a sad sight for us to see for a place with so many great memories for both of us.

Malibu Presbyterian Church fire on the front page for

Malibu Presbyterian Church fire on the front page of

The church and the people have served the community for such a long time, and provide a lot of support during the disastrous 1993 fire. The community and the people will rebuild the structure no doubt -- as it is of importance to so many people (including Ashley and I), students at Pepperdine, families, and children who attend the functions and preschool there. The most fortunate part is that this occurred before the first service of the morning at 9:00am started, and everyone was able to get out safely.....

.....earlier this year, back on January 9th a quick sweeping fire took Suzanne Sommers and a couple of other homes in the Malibu area. I reflected on some memories from my experience in during the Malibu fires on campus in both 1993 and 1996. (I posted some photos from 1996 here: fire resembles the 1997 in the way that it happened so quickly -- estimated at 5:00am by many news outlets -- and moved so quickly before the fire departments could set up.

In both cases I evacuated to the Firestone Fieldhouse or the gymnasium at Pepperdine University and spent the night with a face mask to block the smoke and particles, sleeping on the floor of the gym. The fire in both cases did come down into the campus, but mainly burnt around the periphery -- the President's house, and the horse stables were slightly damaged.

The great news is that Pepperdine has a great evacuation and preparation plan given the number of fires in the past. The students have been evacuated to the two safest buildings on campus -- the Tyler Campus Center and the Firestone Fieldhouse.

People will need to be prepared for perhaps some more of this over the next few days. This is still just the beginning of a 3-day stretch where we are expecting more Santa Ana winds. Santa Ana winds and the chaparral landscape (Ceanothus megacarpus and Rhus laurina) in the area do not mix well for us. Generally, they tend to build up their fuel and burn every 10-14 years. It had been 11 years since the last major fire. So, continue to brace and pray....

Late breaking new that the historical landmark of the castle is engulfed in flames....The fire is mainly around the Las Virgenes, Malibu Canyon, Pepperdine, Serrah Retreat, and Hughes Laboratory areas.