Two area lifeguards are to be recognized for their heroism in fighting the Woolsey Fire. Even though Malibu residents Tim Ryan and Ryan Addison are both employed by the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the two lifelong friends and neighbors are both lifeguards and not accustomed to fighting a blaze on the front line. However, the men secured a makeshift fire hose and, along with a few others, are credited with saving Paradise Cove.
On the Friday morning of the fire, Tim Ryan had already pulled a 24-hour shift as a Zuma Beach lifeguard. It was a nervous overnighter at Zuma headquarters as the crew was up all night monitoring the fast-moving blaze. Residents called to ask if they should evacuate. By 8 a.m., Ryan was off duty when the fire jumped the Ventura (101) Freeway, signaling a disaster was in store for Malibu. The lifelong Malibu resident had been through many fires before and vividly remembered the 1978 conflagration that tore through Malibu, destroying some neighborhoods.
“Ryan and I both live in Paradise Cove so went home to our families and basically took care of business,” Tim Ryan recalled. While most of the community left, Ryan and Addison and a group of friends stayed behind to defend their neighborhood. “At the very beginning, we didn’t have much,” Ryan explained, but with the help of Tim Morris of the Beach Café, who provided a fire hose, the men hooked up to a hydrant and kept the fire from crossing Pacific Coast Highway. While other Malibu communities’ water had depleted, the Paradise Cove group unbelievably had full hydrants and were able to keep the flames at bay.
By early evening, Ryan said, the fire made its way to the cove. “We joined other friends fighting the fire. It moved down almost to the pier, but we were able to contain and kept it out of the fuel of Paradise Cove. If one of those mobile homes catch[es] on fire they’re all gone. They’re so close together.”
On the first full day—Friday—of the Woolsey Fire, there were no official fire department personnel—just the eight to 10 men who stayed behind to defend Paradise Cove. By evening, a battalion chief came by to assist for two hours. By 2 a.m. Ryan was finally able to go to sleep, but it didn’t last long.
Ryan Addison also “had a pretty good feeling the fire would make it to the coast,” he described. As a lifeguard captain he also is not a frontline firefighter, but as a 42-year Malibu resident had memories of the 1982 fire and devastation. “We had a very basic concept of a little bit of firefighting, but nothing like what the real firemen do. We were at the emergency access gate to Paradise Cove and finally got a nozzle for the old firehose we had. By then, the fire had come near. We knew we had to stop it because if it crossed over, there was a huge ravine. If it went up, probably a bunch of homes would have been gone. We hammered it out. It was burning right up to PCH throwing huge embers across the highway.”
The men hooked up to a hydrant and strung the hose across the highway and “went to town on the north side of the highway.” Due to the hard work of Ryan, Addison and their neighbors—and their good fortune—not a single home was lost in Paradise Cove.
“It’s tough to say we saved it,” Addison said. “If we gave a little on our part to save it, then yeah—but luckily we had the water.” The strong water pressure in the cove “was a game changer for us,” Addison acknowledged.
The two conducted welfare checks for a week to check on friends and elderly people who needed help. “We helped people get back on their feet—who didn’t want to leave or refused to leave.”
On July 31, Ryan and Addison will each receive the Distinguished Service Award at the Lifeguard Medal of Valor Dinner in Redondo Beach that kicks off the 57th Annual International Surf Festival.
Recently retired Ocean Lifeguard Bill Krauss will also be honored for his 48 years of service patrolling local beaches and mentoring and teaching junior lifeguards. “It is our honor to recognize these individuals who demonstrated bravery and a selfless commitment to the safety of beachgoers of Los Angeles County,” said Rob McGowan, president of the ISF. “They rose to the challenge, and their heroism is inspirational and worthy of recognition.”
This story has been updated to reflect correct information about the recognition.