In all my 23 years of living in the peaceful, hippie-bohemian community of Topanga Canyon this was my first time being put under mandatory evacuation. The recent Woolsey Fire that started in the Valley engulfed a large portion of Malibu, and over 1,000 homes, within hours. As it ran parallel and dangerously close to our precious, dry canyon all we could think was “please don’t let the winds change”. Though at the same time, that also meant that the fire would just head for other houses, and in another direction (Malibu). It was bad news all around for the parched Santa Monica Mountains and any canyon-dwellers’ worst fear.
Before Wiley left for work that morning, shortly after the fire started, we decided to err on the side of caution and get ready for a possible evacuation (despite my Mom saying I was being a “fear monger”). With our paintings, passports and pictures all loaded up in my car, Wiley left for work. It wasn’t more than a couple hours later that we were told the Fire Department had requested a full mandatory evacuation of Topanga.
Scared and confused, I ran through the house stuffing clothes in bags and taking care of any final precautions. As we left, I said goodbye to my home hoping and praying it wouldn’t be the last time I saw it. We spent the first night of the evacuation in Beverly Hills at my Oma and Opa’s house. It’s a beautiful, Spanish-style home that I always have loved coming to. While the kids loved the excitement, Wiley and I kept a nervous eye on the news, hoping firefighters would be able to get an upper hand quickly.
I had a collaboration with Jamaica Bay Inn for the next night, which couldn’t have been at a more perfect time considering the Canyon was closed and we had nowhere to go. Henry and Vivi were so excited this little “adventure” was continuing and though I was so nervous about Topanga it was nice to see them having so much fun.
When we arrived, the kids couldn’t believe their luck. Jamaica Bay Inn is like it’s own little world, a gorgeous resort complete with a beach, heated pool, and restaurant. First things first, we headed to Beachside Restaurant and Bar for some MUCH needed margaritas and tacos. I highly recommend the South Spice cocktail, it’s like a spicy margarita but better. Everything was so delicious and we just adored our server who, upon realizing we were evacuees, had our drinks brought out to us on the double.
Our room was also such a lovely surprise. Two big beds and a balcony with a view of the ocean – Henry was so ecstatic he couldn’t contain himself. After settling in, we strolled around the property and then down to the harbor to watch the boats come and go.
Marina del Rey really is such a gem – the salty air and endless activities and restaurants make it an ideal spot for a staycation. After a nostalgic dinner at El Torito where I went many times as a child for family events, we headed back to our room for robes and room service. Henry ordered a gigantic carrot cake the size of his head while Vivi opted for three scoops of chocolate ice cream and a large bowl of berries. Though the fire was a constant worry in the back of my mind, it made me SO happy to see the kids having the best time.
We woke up bright and early and ordered another feast to our room. The kids quickly realized that room service is one of those luxuries that never gets old. After the eggs and pancakes were demolished, we headed down to the pool. While the kids burned through a good chunk of their seemingly endless energy, Wiley and I discussed our next move. We were all so sad to leave Jamaica Bay Inn, it was a truly special little light for us during a dark time, but so happy for the kids to have those memories of quality, family fun.
With the end of the evacuation nowhere in site we booked an AirBnB in Encino where we spent the next couple nights with my sister and her family. It was so nice to be hunkered down together to wait out the fire. After a couple nights we got word that the evacuation for our corner of the Canyon was lifted. After five long days we could finally come home. Our happiness was fleeting as it started to dawn on us the absolute devastation that hit so many people we knew. So much of Malibu has been reduced to ash and so many people lost so much. The wildlife lost is too great to even comprehend. There is still so much work to be done but together we can all help.
If you would like to help those affected by the Woolsey Fire, please consider donating to my coworker and single mother, Hilda. It’s a great way to make sure 100% of your donation goes directly to someone affected by this unfathomable disaster. With little time to evacuate, they lost almost everything. Click here to donate.