LA’s Unknown Side (with local ex-firefighter)

Apr 08, 2023 939.1K Views 1.2K Comments

The greater LA area is one of the most mixed-up places in the world. Today we meet old-school local Walter Shirk who shows us an unknown side of greater LA that few of us are familiar with.

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► Video edited by: Natalia Santenello

PETER: Downtown Los Angeles.
Fresh dusting snow in the mountains.
All the way out to the Pacific Ocean.
And Santa Monica,
where we’re gonna start today.
We’re meeting with an old school local
named Walter who told me,
“Peter, Santa Monica was like
a little village when I grew up there.”
and Walter’s gonna take us into the stories
and the old world here
but also bring us
up to the mountains beyond.
Where he told me,
“We have mountain lion, bear, deer.”
Countryside living right outside
of this swath of 18.5 million people
is a completely different world.
Which Walter is gonna show us.
All right, let’s do this.
♪ jazz ♪
WALTER: When I was a kid
there was a boat ramp right here.
Where you could back your boat in,
then you’d be…
The ocean was right here,
the sand has filled in that much
and ‘course that’s 70 years.
PETER: Do you want to get arrested, Walter?
WALTER: Not really. [chuckles]
♪ busker playing guitar ♪
-So Walter, we’re gonna end up
where? Up in those hills?
-See the last little thing out there,
little flat top?
-The last flat area? Okay.
That’s Point Dume and that’s about
two thirds of the way where we’re going.
-And then we go inland?
-And then we go inland, yeah.
-So as far as living here,
where you grew up,
and living up there,
two different universes?
-Two different universes.
♪ busker playing sitar ♪
WALTER: This was built over a long period,
but when the pier was demolished
in the ’82 storms,
they got the facilities rebuilt,
they got the harbor offices rebuilt,
and the harbor guys, when they
finally got their place, they said,
“Oh geez, this is great.
We got a great view… inland.”
He says, “This is a harbor port,
we can’t even see the harbor.”
“We can’t even see the ocean.”
So that’s the government planning
at its best.
WALTER: I used to spend a lot of time
out here fishing.
They recommend not to eat
any fish out of the water here now.
In fact there’s one… One type of cod
they say really don’t eat.
‘Cause it retains a lot of the bad stuff.
[faucet splashing.]
-If you’re at a restaurant in LA
and they say,
“Fresh caught fish, local fish.”
You just… you don’t want that dish?
-Uh, not in the rainy season.
-Yeah, it’s all murky now
from all that rain.
That’s some of the biggest rains
in a long time, right?
-They’re talking
maybe a thousand year storm.
Plus it’s been four years
since the fire, so…
-Okay.
-There’s two things that happened here,
the fires, they caramelize the soil,
and the first rains run right off.
There’s no absorption.
-Okay.
That’s what you were, a firefighter, right?
-Yeah, down here for 38 years.
-You miss it?
-Yeah, I’d go back tomorrow.
Well, it was time to go.
You never think there’s a generation gap
or all those things that we talk about.
The new wave of stuff.
But it’s true and sometimes
it’s time for the older guys to go.
♪ carousel music ♪
PETER: So this is the same, huh?
-Same, the only difference is
I had a guy I went to school with.
He lived up in
one of the apartments up there?
-There were apartments up here?
-Yes, they were called apartments.
-People were living up there
in those rooms?
-Down the hall bathroom
and maybe one or two rooms.
-Oh, that’s great.
-They used to have
the brass rings here too.
There was a dispenser right here.
As you went by you grabbed a brass rings.
And like every 20th, or 50th, or something
was brass, the rest of them were steel.
The brass ring, you got another ride.
-Oh, okay.
PETER: You remember the brass rings?
WOMAN: I never seen them.
-But I was told they had ’em here.
-Okay.
WOMAN: Can you imagine that now?
WALTER: The reason they stopped doing it
is they got sued too many times
from somebody,
“Oh, I broke my finger. I got a scratch.”
WOMAN: “I fell…”
WALTER: Yeah.
PETER: You grew up here too?
-I was born and raised
here in Santa Monica.
PETER: Oh.
Do you miss the old days at all
or not so much?
-Oh yeah, it’s so different now.
PETER: It was totally different
back in the day?
WOMAN: Yeah, it was so much fun.
It was so much calmer,
the people, everything.
Now you have to go out
and worry about everything.
You know, it was so much fun back then.
-One thing that’s really had an impact,
I think, on where people live…
Because Malibu area
and the coast used to be…
And Santa Monica as well.
Were not very desirable places to live
’cause of the fog.
We used to have fogs like London.
-Right.
-And those have gone away.
So point Dume and a lot of Malibu
was really late to develop.
The property was cheap.
Since then…
-The Malibu property was cheap?
-Malibu property was cheap.
-Which is some of the priciest
real estate now, right?
-Exactly.
WALTER: I remember as a kid, there was
fogs where you drove with the door open.
Somebody was watching, you drove
by the traffic lane with your door open.
-Wow.
PETER: Did you have the homeless situation
back then or not really?
I just saw a tent under the bridge,
has it always been like that?
-I don’t think so, I think we had…
I remember as a kid,
there were a couple of “bums” in the town
and they were just tolerated.
There wasn’t too many.
-So when did it
really start taking off here?
I got an apartment in ’74
and it was pretty full-blown.
-So it’s not a new problem here?
I thought it was more new in, like,
the last 20 years.
-No, in fact if anything it has
gotten better, but still, as a citizen…
If I were a citizen of this town
it would be intolerable for me.
I would say, “No way.”
I’d be at every city council meeting.
Of course, they wear you down, you know?
WALTER: So this is called Sunset Park
and this little area
was developed for Douglas.
‘Cause the Douglas factory
was over at Santa Monica Airport.
-What’s Douglas?
-Douglas Aircraft.
-Okay.
-And most the the…
Many of the World War II planes
and some ground vehicles
were built here.
I remember from the Korean Conflict,
the top of the buildings,
there were miniature towns built up there,
but they were only about a foot tall.
-Miniature what?
-Towns.
With streets and everything.
if somebody came to bomb
they didn’t know it was Douglas.
-If a pilot’s looking down
he gets confused by looking at that?
-He thinks it’s a city
and they’re looking to bomb the…
-Oh the manufacturing?
-The manufacturing.
-They’re looking to bomb the…
-Yeah, the big things.
-Gotcha.
-The other thing they did too was
little strips of tin foil
about that long, twisted.
They’d spread them all over the city.
They’d drop ’em
and they’d foul radars for the enemy.
This is a great…
It’s kind of a dead end street.
There was not so much traffic
on this street
but they went from houses like that,
which is very similar
to the house I grew up in…
To this.
-Okay.
-That’s a $3 million house now.
To these.
And this one’s 1730, that’s 1740.
So 1730, that’s the house…
The lot I grew up on.
-So that was like
that first house we just saw?
What you grew up in?
-Yeah, there.
Except for the fact
they kept the old garage.
I still betcha
that’s over a $2 million house.
-What was the price back in the day
for those original houses?
-When my mom died,
I forget what it was, late ’80s.
It sold for three and a quarter.
And I wanted to keep it
and my siblings didn’t, so…
[chuckles]
Growing up, most of this block was that.
-That home right there?
-Houses similar to that.
-Okay.
-Used to be
a big mound of dirt in that place
and we used to go dig tunnels into it,
and play war on it,
and chase people around there.
But the people in
the care facility here loved it
and they’d come out in their wheelchairs
and watch us.
♪ jazz ♪
PETER: How’s crime around here, Walter?
I mean this is a nice wealthy area.
It’s pretty chill or?
-It’s getting worse everywhere.
Particularly the isolated areas.
Malibu and the hills,
all the hills, LA hills,
they’re getting these isolated robberies.
People would just never go to those houses
before because they’re out of the way,
they’re easily detectable,
there’s usually dogs or animals,
and people have guns.
Those places are getting jacked now still.
I don’t know what percentage
but I bet it’s up hundreds of percent
from five years ago.
So this is Malibu,
21 miles of scenic beauty.
It’s scenic by definition
of who’s doing the definition,
’cause in the summertime
this place is not particularly scenic.
The hills are all burned off,
and there’s not greenery,
and the telephone poles,
and the traffic, and so…
-But if you have one of these houses
you’re looking out at the ocean.
-Yeah, this is nice.
And because of the beach problems
along here,
some of these, for years,
have been on rocks.
-Oh, the beach has been washed away?
-Yeah.
And they’re up to their bulkheads.
Some places that have big beaches
going away, they’re putting bulkheads in
so they can save their place.
-So this is potentially
bad real estate to have?
-Yeah.
-I mean if that continues, they’re…
-They’re much higher house maintenance too.
The ocean itself, the just the salt, air,
and the wind, and stuff are destroying.
If you have a place that’s painted
you have to paint it, like,
every three or four years.
None of the aluminum, steel,
or any of the windows work.
You know, they all get corroded out.
That was where my buddy lived,
this place right here.
Gray with he white trim.
If I wasn’t home and you wanted
to get a hold of me, I was there.
-And how would you get
all the way back to Santa Monica?
-Bicycle.
-Seriously?
-Yeah.
-What’s that, 10 miles?
-11, I think.
Old stingray bike
with the butterfly handlebars.
♪ da, da, da, da, da, da ♪
-One speed?
-One speed.
-You were the original hipster
with one speed.
So this was just remote two lane road?
-Very remote.
-Stop signs, no traffic lights.
-This was called the Sea Lion
and they had an aquarium out in front.
Not an aquarium but a pond
out in front with two seals in it.
Bessie and something else, I forget.
WALTER: This is billionaire’s beach.
Now you got beach,
you got probably 50 feet of beach.
These are multi-multi-million dollar homes
and you know,
it’s like a lifetime endeavor.
They’ve been building this one place
for, like, five years, this one here.
-Oh, this one?
-That’s one house.
-Wow.
-Four beach lots.
-Who owns that?
-I think Andreessen.
WALTER: It was a 24 hour restaurant
’cause across the street, the pier here,
they used to have fishing barge.
There was a shuttle that would
take you out, back and forth every hour.
Except for midnight ’til six.
We used to do that a lot in high school.
Go to the barge, and stay over night
on the barge, and fish.
-This is off limits now?
-Yeah.
That’s the particularly off limits place.
This here is the same beach
but that also has inland sheriff…
I mean security and stuff.
-Do you think society is more private now
than back in those days,
or was it the same vibe here?
-There was no privacy here…
as far as because of the kids.
-Okay.
-Garages, and refrigerators,
and skateboards,
whoever got ’em first got to use ’em.
“Johnnie, does your mother
know you’re here? She’s looking for you.”
“Oh, I’ll go home pretty soon.”
-But back in the day it wasn’t
super wealthy or it’s always been?
-No.
-No? Okay
WALTER: So Deer Creek.
PETER: This is where it starts?
-The reason it’s called Deer Creek
is because if you’re a hunter,
and you want some dinner, you want
some deer on the table, come up here.
-A lot of deer up here?
-I don’t know about right now
but we’re coming off of a 10 year drought
in this area
but there traditionally was deer.
PETER: Oh, this gets beautiful.
So in an instant,
you’re basically in nature?
Like in one second.
-Yeah, yeah.
And there’s some eccentrics
that live up here.
Every fashion, color you can think of.
[doors opening]
PETER: All right, guys, this is just
literally 10 minutes
inland from the coast.
So you saw
what it looked like on the coast..
and now this is what you get.
Very rugged.
Beautiful landscapes.
I guess we’re going up that way.
♪ jazz ♪
PETER: Who lives up here, Walter?
Is it a total mix of people?
-Yeah, total mix.
I would bet that guy
is a commuter or a retiree.
I know these people pretty well,
this is a horse farm.
Um, he’s a property, [tsk], like, attorney.
She’s a horsey gal.
-Okay.
-So you can have horses,
agriculture, everything back here?
And this is Ventura County?
-Ventura County.
-Is that a lot different
than LA County with that stuff?
-Yes.
-So ranches have been up here for a while?
-Yeah, this was the first dry farming area
of the Santa Monica mountains.
There’s a road up here which goes down
and into the lowlands of Camarillo
back into the valley.
Which is the way
everybody used to get here.
-And it’s a one lane road?
-Yeah.
-So just over that hill,
really, is 18.5 million people,
the great LA Basin, right?
-Oh, yeah, yeah.
-How crazy is that?
PETER: Okay, so this is what
the new properties are looking like.
A lot of ’em, huh?
-Yep.
-Look at that, helicopter pad.
-That’s phony.
They can’t get a helicopter pad.
They say it but can’t.
Never get a permit for that.
-They’re marketing it as
you can get a helicopter pad?
-Big money people out here
try to get helicopter pads.
No, you can put one in.
And something, like, you can use it
on a truly emergent basis as needed
or three…
Something like three times a year
and that’s it.
-Bob Dylan’s wife is up here.
-Yeah.
-That’s got a beautiful view
down over there
and that windmill up on top is for real.
I don’t know if they still use it
but it’s where the well is.
-So if somebody wants a remote,
beautiful place to live,
has a ton of money,
has to be in LA for work sometimes.
-This would be the place, right?
-This would not be a bad area, yeah.
This was the original land grant.
-From the Spanish?
-Yeah.
-Or the Mexicans?
-The Spanish I believe.
And those were done at 460 acres.
That’s called a section
and I don’t know how it ended up
being those measurements, you know?
Acres… Those sections are over there.
-And this was all
Native land before, right?
-Yeah.
-What tribe was this?
-Chumash, I believe.
They didn’t put it back, it was kinda cool.
Down here at this gate, and old grave.
It said, “Here lies the last person
that didn’t close my gate.”
[both chuckling]
-You did Peace Corps in Iran?
-Yeah.
-In what year?
-’66, ’68.
-Okay.
In Kuwait, I mean in Iran,
this old Jewish shopkeeper,
you could buy scotch
and Playboy magazines.
So we’d load up
as much as we could in a suitcase
and go down to the port down there
in Southern Iran.
-Bandar Abbas?
-No, it was a different one.
-Then we’d fly over to Kuwait City.
It’s like a [zzt, zzt, zzt, zzt].
And it actually had sheep on the plane,
and actually had a flame throwing samovar
in the aisle to get tea.
In a freakin’ modern jet.
And then we’d go to our source there.
First thing you do when you get off,
you go give a pint of blood.
‘Cause it was 10 Dinars at the time.
Dinar was $2.60.
Then we’d go buy…
The trips would usually be
to get a camera, or something, or stereo,
or something like that.
-So you’re going to Kuwait
to get some camera gear
and make some money with your blood?
-Yeah.
-Well, then buy a boatload of cigarettes.
‘Cause cigarettes were nine cents a pack
and they had a high tax in Iran.
-Okay.
[chuckles]
So whatever we could stuff in there
and then sell the Playboy magazines
and the scotch in Kuwait.
[chuckles]
And, you know, usually…
One trip, we’d usually find…
Get one of our things.
Either a nice lens, or a camera,
or something, you know?
And then get back on the plane
and get out of there.
-Because Kuwait
was way more conservative at the time.
‘Cause that was Shas Iran.
-Yeah.
You could buy Playboys or whatever, right?
-Yeah, the big thing
was probably the scotch.
PETER: What a beautiful place up here.
You can see in the distance,
somewhat red rocks up there.
Walter, very impressive.
We’re on Firefighter Drive.
[Walter chuckles]
-This is my old field find.
[taps on truck]
This was in a guy’s yard and he said,
“If you can start it, you can have it.”
[Peter chuckles]
WALTER: It started.
So when… After the fire when they
were putting the telephone poles back in
one of the guys says,
“I’ll give you 7,500 bucks for that thing.”
I shoulda taken it I guess but…
This is a diesel.
Four speed diesel turbo.
Bonnie has this pet fox
she feeds every night.
-Pet fox?
-Yeah.
Well, it’s a pet as far as
it eats the food then it hauls ass.
-So you have animals
coming over the hill here?
-Yeah, well they’re in the yard…
coming in.
-Fox?
-Yeah.
Coyote.
-Mountain lions?
-Yeah… bobcats.
-Bears, no? You told me no bears.
-No bears.
-Okay, I got that wrong.
I thought there were bears
coming through here.
-I think the Indians
pretty much eradicated those.
-Oh.
-Then the white man came along
and really took care of them I think.
PETER: That was burned how many years ago?
-Four.
-Four?
So that’s the big challenge up here, fires?
-Yeah.
If you’re afforded the luxury
of flex schedule
you can always be around when
needs be and it’s not much of an issue.
-What do you mean, the fires?
-Yeah.
-What do you mean?
What are you gonna do?
-Save your property.
-Just get a garden hose out here
and water everything?
-No, no, I got a couple small fire pumps
and fire hose.
You lay ’em out and then I have one
that sucks out of the hot tub,
and then hook it up to the big tank,
and just leave ’em running.
I had those things running
for, like, nine hours.
-So what do you mean?
You have a fire hose coming out here
and it’s just flooding the zone with water?
-No, no, with a nozzle on it.
-And you’re just waiting
for a flame to come around?
-Work your way around
and follow the flames.
You don’t put the fire out,
you’re never gonna put that fire out.
It’s gonna burn.
-It’s gonna burn?
-But you can put out the hot spots.
Boney Ridge, the fire was way back
over in there…
…in the afternoon.
-Okay.
-This might even have been the day before.
-So how do you feel when you see that?
You’re a firefighter so you’re
a little more used to it than most, right?
-It kept getting closer and closer.
It had already gone way down over there
on the other side.
So now we’re getting… It’s right here.
-Okay.
That’s unburned…
And chemical wise…
When it gets the right composition,
it will flash.
That’s what, like,
flash overs are in buildings.
‘Cause the chemical’s composition
is not right.
The air, the fuel mixture is not right.
-Mm-hmm.
-And when that gets right, it takes off.
So you gotta be careful
when you see that kind of smoke,
not to get too close into it.
So this is one of the last ones I took
because I was putting the thing in
my pocket ’cause it was time to get busy.
-Let me see that again.
That was right there.
-[Peter surprised] Oh my God!
-That’s down over there.
Going down there.
That’s where
the tractor is down there, burning.
-Oh, that’s right down there.
So when it’s smoked-in like that
you’re not like,
“I need to get out of here.”?
-Yeah, but that came later on.
-[Peter laughing in disbelief]
Okay, gotcha.
-When we left…
Our neighbor was here,
and he had crippled dogs,
and they were in his car,
and Bonnie was in her car,
and they were gonna stay,
and then at the last minute they go,
“We’re not staying.”
I said, “F*ck.”
So I say, “Okay, I’ll follow you.
I’ll be behind you.”
So they get down the driveway,
“Okay, get out of here.”
You know, so…
Then the sh*tload broke loose
and nobody knew
what was going on anywhere.
So Cody called the fire department
in Santa Monica.
-Yeah.
-And used his good graces, and said,
“Can you send somebody out to check?”.
-Cody is your son?
-Yeah.
When everything was
calmed down, cool, and over,
there was still fire around, they had to
come out and check every once in a while.
But I see these lights, I was in the house.
I see these lights come up here.
There was a firetruck coming up
and there had been
no fire equipment up here whatsoever.
“The hell’s going on?”
So I come out here, there was a rig,
one of the brush rigs
for Santa Monica had come out here,
and the two kids that were on it were…
They’d been on the job for quite a while,
but they were one of my original trainees
when I was a tower instructor.
-Oh, great.
-I said, “What the hell?”.
So I said,
“C’mon in, I’m watching Jeopardy…”
“…and having a beer, and having
some spaghetti. You want some spaghetti?”
They, “What the…”
So that was after everything settled down.
He said, “No, Cody was sure
you were perished up here.”
“Well, no, not quite.”
-So when the last big fire
came through here,
how many of the neighbors took off
versus how many stayed?
-That was when, remember…
So, oh yeah…
There’s like 30 houses up here.
-Yeah.
-15 people stayed
and one of those houses burned,
and what happened
to his fire pump… failed.
Of the 15 people that left,
all of them burned except one.
-Oh.
-And that one had such bad checking
in some of the windows
that during the winds,
the windows fell out.
The glass fell out.
And the thing got overrun with rats.
And this place was tighter than a drum
getting in and out for about a month.
And it’s not their main house,
they live in…
It’s like a weekender house.
So they didn’t even come back,
but when they came back,
they almost had to demolish the house
’cause of the rat problem.
There was rat turds and rat piss
up the walls.
All the cabinets,
all their clothes had rats.
-You have rat problems up here?
-No, it was upset.
The balance was upset.
All the predators were gone
and the rats were sticking around.
-Oh, that’s what happens
with the fires, huh?
-Yeah.
-The balance is out of whack?
-Out of whack, and there was gazillion…
I have a little half tub…
Wine tub gold fish thing back there.
I was getting 10, 12, 15
rats a night drown in it.
You know? [chuckles]
For weeks.
-Because the coyotes were gone?
-Owls especially.
-The owls?
-Especially the owls.
If they were in their normal places
where they hide out during the fire,
they probably made it through the fire.
-Yeah.
-‘Cause the fire doesn’t burn the ground.
-It doesn’t?
-It does, kinda.
Where it’s real brushy, it, um,
glazes the ground.
-Mm-hmm.
-So the first big rains are terrible
because nothing sinks in.
It all slops off.
PETER: So that’s a writer’s cabin?
WALTER: Yeah.
-Fire ripped down here?
-Yep, down there.
-It missed the writer’s cabin obviously.
-He had a crew of people.
He had like five people that he hired,
and they went through and did the hot mop.
As soon as the fire comes through
they go down.
-Yep.
-And the back half of that thing
burned a little bit,
and they put it all out,
saved the stairs a bit of the wall.
-So what were you doing here?
-So that tank there, the green tank…
-Okay.
-I hooked the fire pump up to that.
Which it is right now.
-Okay.
-And laid the hose out,
and came down around
the front of the house.
Then I put one in the hot tub.
Put that hose over on that side,
and just kept going
back and forth to hot spots
-And it’s just that game,
and you gotta keep on top of that?
And if you keep on top of it,
your house doesn’t burn?
If it overcomes you, game over?
-No, there comes a certain point
where you go in the house.
When it’s totally untenable out here
you go in the house.
-You go in the house?
-Go in the house.
-When everything is burning?
-Yeah.
-Why?
-When there’s actual flames right here
’cause it’s gonna get you.
The house is gonna catch on fire?
-No.
-Well that’s…
As soon as it goes through, within…
‘Cause it’s howling wind.
You jump back outside
and get busy on the hose.
-Okay, so you go in the house
hoping it doesn’t burn down?
-Yeah, well it won’t that quickly.
-I had a f*ckin’ rabbit
follow me in the house.
When I went in the house
a rabbit went in with me.
I couldn’t catch the little bastard
for about a week.
There’s rabbit pellets all over the place
and he ate all the house plants.
[laughs]
Eucalyptus trees over there
just kept putting embers and embers.
So I tried to douse the tree a little bit.
It turned out to probably be
a little wasted water but…
So I’m back there and I turn around
and this little corner over here
was on fire.
That’s not as bad as it looked.
There was flames shooting way up
’cause that thing was full of a vine.
-This tree right here?
-No, no, this right here.
-The house?
-Right here.
-Oh, you can see the…
…charred wood up there.
-So that’s the type of thing
unattended will burn your house down.
-A vine?
-A vine, yeah, and then to that.
‘Cause from the other side there was
flames going 15, 20 feet in the air.
Later in the evening
I set the alarm for every half an hour.
So if I fell asleep or whatever,
every half hour at least,
I got up and walked around.
-You stayed here the whole time?
-Well you couldn’t get in and out
for almost three weeks.
If you left they wouldn’t let you back in.
-So you’re well-stocked?
You have your food, you have your water?
-I have a small generator that I ran
for the pump and stuff.
For the water pump.
-So if someone isn’t handy,
they shouldn’t be living out here?
-That’s right.
Either handy or really rich with a
really good source of dependable handymen.
PETER: Hello.
WOMAN: Hi.
PETER: Bonnie, your place is beautiful.
-Thank you, it’s old but the people did…
owners painted all the flooring.
Thank God, I’ve always wanted wood floors.
These are already here
but everything was bland.
It was black and beige.
-Uh-huh.
-To me, depressing.
And I sort of went, [pweesh]
with the colors.
-Oh, you’re poppin’ in here, look at that.
-Poppin’.
BONNIE: And these windows,
they have that beveled or blurred.
They’re from back East.
-Oh, yeah.
-They’re all over it and I’m a bird watcher
and when I want to watch it’s like…
I hate these windows
’cause I can’t see clear through them.
-Oh, okay.
-But they’re still… They’re cool.
PETER: That’s beautiful.
BONNIE: Yeah, that’s the thing…
…about this house, it’s all windows
and I have so many pictures to hang
but there’s no walls
because it’s only windows in this house.
-Right, and then you can
wash your hands looking out over that.
So Bonnie, when the fire came,
Walter said he’s coming.
Doesn’t come.
How was that?
-I can start crying,
it was so scary because I was gonna leave,
but I wanted to stay and Walt goes,
“It’s time for you to leave.”
The fire came over the ridge here
and by the time he says it’s time to leave
I turned around,
this canyon here was totally aflame.
So I left with my neighbor
who is not really from here.
We went together and I said to Walt,
I said,
“We’re gonna go over to…
Back to his house.”
And by the time we went back to the house
that mountain there was solid flames.
So we couldn’t get out of here.
So we went up the canyon
and went up the back way,
and I was 100% certain that Walt was gone.
Because it was solid flames here.
-Oh my God.
-It was solid flames.
And he’s been through a lot
but the night before…
When I was in the garden
I saw the smoke and I’m going,
“Oh my God.”
and our neighbor goes, “What?”
I said, “There’s smoke over there.”
and Walt, in his mind, you know,
being a fireman, he started prepping.
He was up the whole night on the couch.
I think figuring out what he was gonna do
’cause he knew the fire was coming
and I didn’t think it was coming
because it started way around Mulholland.
But went down to the mountain
and my neighbor,
we went up to the top to see the flames
and the sound was insane.
It was so angry.
So I turned back down the house,
within seven minutes
it was on our property.
I thought, “Okay, I’m gonna still stay.”
Walt goes, “It’s time for you to go.”
And he stayed.
He had a plan.
I’ve seen a lot of fires in Malibu,
I’ve been here my whole life.
This one was massive…
…and fast…
…and nobody could escape.
The ones that did escape lost their homes.
The ones that stayed,
they saved their homes.
That’s one of those things
I’m sure Walt told you.
If you don’t know what you’re doing,
you’re gonna die.
If you don’t know what you’re gonna do…
‘Cause a fire’s on a mission.
It goes right over and Walt knows that
but I didn’t know.
The intensity at the time was like
this house is gone and he was gone.
-Wow, how long did it take
before you learned he wasn’t gone?
-Cody called, it was about a day or so.
-So you were, for a day,
thinking your husband was…
-Oh yeah, gone.
And then some people from
the fire department
come from Santa Monica
and they came to check on him,
and I found out that he was okay,
and goes…
“Walt’s having a beer
watching Jeopardy right now.”
“What?!?!”
[all laughing]
-So how did that feel
once you heard he was okay?
-Oh my God.
WALTER: She went,
“Damn, there goes the insurance money.”
[all laughing]
-It was the worst moment of my life.
WALTER: See if anybody’s home.
Anybody home?
PETER: 5 to 15 rats out of that?
WALTER: Yeah, every night.
I kept on thinking it can’t go on,
it went on for like two weeks.
-Right after the fire?
-Yeah.
There they are.
Oh, they can see.
They can see way back here.
PETER: Thanks, guys, for coming along.
And just to close on
the crazy contrast that exists here.
Just over here is basically
the population of a small country.
And then we have this.
If there’s one lesson to be learned, it’s
things are usually more than they seem.
All right, guys, thanks for coming along.
Until the next one.
♪ mellow electronica ♪

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