As there’s been little to stop the Woolsey wildfire from spreading from the Valley toward the Pacific coastline, catastrophic doesn’t even begin to describe the loss California is facing right now, only a year after fires ripped through the state. In addition to the scarring of the natural landscape, the Woolsey fire, along with the Camp fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills, has claimed 31 lives and led to the most deadly outbreak of fires in California’s history. Further, with thousands of acres scorched, hundreds of thousands of residents have been forced to evacuate, many—celebrities like Gerard Butler, Miley Cyrus, and Robin Thicke among them—have totally lost their homes, and historic and cultural structures have also been wiped out by the raging flames which, thanks to high winds moving into the area, could intensify.
While seminal Malibu residences from Frank Gehry, John Lautner, and Herbert Kameon have, thus far, survived the fires—as have Frank Lloyd Wright’s Arch Oboler Complex and the Getty Villa, which is now serving as a refuge for firefighters and first responders battling the flames—notable Hollywood sets and homes have unfortunately fared worse. A replica of the set from the TV series M*A*S*H (the original was, ironically, victim to a brush fire in 1982) was destroyed, as was Westertown at Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills. The latter was last used in the hit HBO series Westworld, and though the majority of the set is gone, the only piece still standing is the church. At last check, the status of the A Star Is Born house—recently seen in the Lady Gaga–Bradley Cooper hit film—was unknown, but it does lie in the highly threatened area of Calabasas, the Los Angeles city from which Kim Kardashian West recently evacuated.
With the fires spreading indiscriminately, a handful of culturally significant buildings and properties have also suffered damage or been reduced to ruin. The main campus of Pepperdine University, in Malibu, remains intact, but some outbuildings were totally lost. The Peter Strauss Ranch, a historic destination for live music since the 1930s, has lost most of its buildings. In Malibu Canyon, the historic Sepulveda Adobe, a 155-year-old home that was built by homesteaders in 1863, has been “reduced to [a] shell,” according to Barbara Tejada of the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Elsewhere in the Canyon, Malibu Wines and Saddle Rock Ranch, a popular vineyard and wildlife park, suffered significant damage to the property, and staff members are still searching for lost animals. Also in danger, Ronald Regan Ranch, the former president’s property that’s now part of Malibu Creek State Park, which was shown over the weekend to have been invaded by the flames.
Lastly, and perhaps of most concern, the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, the 1949 facility that has been home to several nuclear reactors and is now owned by Boeing, was badly damaged, raising concerns about radioactive waste. As a result, governor-elect Gavin Newsom is being urged to order an investigation to determine if radioactive toxins could have been released by flames.
As disheartening as the news out of the state continues to be, there’s a lot you can do to help. And as a reminder, fiscal donations are still the most efficient way to lend your support. A little, a lot, or anything in between will go a long way to help the residents of California recover from the devastation.