Tuesday, March 21, 2023



Fire transforms Pacific Coast Highway beaches into surreal apocalypse

An owl on Zuma Beach on Friday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Normally this time of year is a great time to camp along Southern California beaches. The summer crowds are gone, the fall weather is about perfect, and you can find a campsite. But on Malibu area beaches at sunset Saturday, the waves crashed against the rocks at Point Mugu State Park, just like always, but no one was there to watch it happen.

The last two days have been anything but normal. And Malibu’s beaches have been transformed amid the smoke into something surreal, reported the Los Angeles Times.

At Zuma Beach, there were horses and alpacas tied to lifeguard stations, their owners racing them down the burning hills and to the safety of the sand. A lone owl was spotted in the same area, looking out of place nestled near the shore.

Residents who fled their Malibu homes simply parked in the beach lots, waiting to find out whether their property survived. On Friday night, actor Martin Sheen was among them. His son had reported him and his wife missing, but a TV news crew found them at the beach, with the couple planning to spend the night in their car.

The Woolsey fire had begun its devastating march through the area not 36 hours before, and police had barred the public from Highway 1 between Oxnard and Pepperdine University.

Point Mugu was largely untouched by the fire. But a couple of miles south on Highway 101, downed power lines and charred utility poles signaled Woolsey’s trail of destruction. The only vehicles on the road belonged to first responders. Those that sped toward fire hot spots didn’t bother to turn on their sirens because no one was there to hear them. A lone surfer shrugged off his wetsuit as he watched an apocalyptically red sun make its descent into the water.

At his home that overlooks County Line Beach, 75-year-old Sam Bruttomesso was charging his phone in his car. He had never seen embers jump the highway and ignite nearby homes, or singed deer limp across the highway, as he had on Friday afternoon. 

South of Bruttomesso, the scrubby hills of Leo Carrillo State Park campground were torched beyond recognition. The pale turquoise lifeguard post at Zuma Beach was abandoned. At Corral Canyon Road, the smoke was still so thick that it obscured the ocean completely.



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