For 18 harrowing hours over the weekend, Jim Williams stood guard on his Malibu property and diligently worked to save his house from the Woolsey Fire as flames consumed his neighbors’ homes.
With fire hoses hooked up to stored water in his pool, Williams walked around his house and sprayed water on everything, trying to keep trees and brush from catching fire.
He watched as the half a dozen homes adjacent to his property went up in flames, one approximately every couple of hours, Williams told KTLA on Monday.
When the flames died down around midnight, Williams could finally relax. His home was saved, but many of the people in the area weren’t so lucky.
Williams had long prepared for the possibility that a raging wildfire could encroach into his neighborhood in Malibu Park, essentially creating what amounted to a fire station on his own property, complete with 2-inch fire hoses, pumps and 50,000 gallons of stored water.
“When I built this fire system here, you hoped – and you thought, ‘Probably never use it.’ But it gave you a lot of satisfaction and feeling of comfort that it’s here,” he said. “And we did have to use it.”
The prevention system Williams built goes around his entire property, and includes rooftop vents with spark arrestors, a device that helped prevent embers from getting inside his home and igniting the structure.
“When you live in a fire prone area, chances are it’s going to happen,” he explained of his preparation efforts. “Just like you live in an area with there’s earthquakes, chances are it’s going to happen. You hope it never does.”
The neighborhood was among several areas decimated by flames, though Williams said that didn’t happen until a day and a half after the initial firestorm swept through the area.
And once one home burned, others in the area followed. There were no fire trucks in the immediate area, and no one was there to save them, according to Williams.
“They went pretty much one at a time over – probably 12 to 24 hours,” he told KTLA. “I was lucky from that perspective, because I didn’t have to fight multiple fires at one time.”
Williams managed to spray about 20,000 gallons of water on his property in the first few hours, until eventually the water pressure gave away.
On Monday morning, his pool appeared half empty. But his home was unscathed by the flames, the fully intact structure next the smoldering ruins of what used to be a neighbor’s house.
For Williams, preparation for potential wildfires isn’t optional – it’s a necessity. And he urged others to be just as diligent.
“When you live in a climate such as this, with the brush we have, there’s a lot of things that could have been done,” he said. “It’s just simple brush clearance. You could easily see around the neighborhood which ones were the most vulnerable in this type of event. And it’s pretty easy to see which ones – why they stayed, and which ones burned.”