The Malibu Times follows the recovery and rebuild process of locals who lost their homes due to the Woolsey Fire in the “Rising from the Ashes” series. On Monday, we took a winding route up Yerba Buena Road in unincorporated Malibu to meet with Michael and Linda Weisberg. The Weisbergs are the first family in the Rising from the Ashes series to complete the rebuild of their property, which sits on a little more than 5,000 square feet. The home is located on the Ventura side of the county line.
The couple wanted their home completed by Aug. 1 and so, they set out to get it done.
The contractors they worked with were the same ones who worked on the initial house (which, as previously reported in this series, had only just been completed in July 2018). Since many of them were personal friends, Michael said the team was “more than willing to expedite the process to get us back in.”
It helped that they also compounded the work, rather than installing the plumbing and electrical in stages.
“We would have, you know, three to four trades in one day here, working side by side together, which is a rarity,” he explained.
Michael and Linda lived in a trailer on the property, giving them the ability to supervise and make quick decisions.
“We didn’t take weeks to pick out flooring and details like that,” Michael said. “We would pick it out in a day so that we didn’t stop the process.”
Though most of the house—three beds, 2.5 baths with an office, patio and garage—remains the same as the one completed just prior to the fire, some changes were made to cut down on rebuild time and save money in the process. For instance, reusing salvagable parts of their home may have cost more in labor, but it was ultimately a cost-saver given issues like the rising cost of steel due to tariffs under President Trump’s administration.
Another worry was the state of their insurance.
“When we first got insurance, we were told there was only one option and it was California FAIR Plan because we’re in a high-risk fire area,” he said. “And we had that and a secondary policy for contents.”
“It wasn’t until after the fire that I realized really what coverage I didn’t have,” he said, echoing the same issue many in the community had after the fire.
The FAIR Plan ended up paying the full premium, but the secondary policy did not, given that it had something he was never alerted to: a fire exclusion.
“Why would you ever have a policy in a high fire area that excludes fire to cover?”
He continued, “What, now, I’ve learned is you can’t get a secondary policy that covers fire. These secondary policies are just for other incidentals, but only your first policy covers for fire.”
When asked about fireproofing the house, Michael laughed.
“You know, it’s so funny because we’ve had so many people say the same thing, like ‘What would you have done different[ly] to make it more fireproof?’”
“There’s no such thing as really fireproofing your house, you know, I have to say that,” he mused.
Still, the couple installed more fire breaks and the property boasts its own fire hydrant and 10,000 gallons of water ready for use—all with the hope that they will never experience anything like the Woolsey Fire again.
“To think, right now, we’re sitting on our patio and our house is built... It’s almost like a bad dream that happened,” Michael said. “You woke up and you’re like, ‘Did that really happen?’ But it did and it’s made us stronger.”
Linda called the fire and subsequent months “the biggest test on a marriage.”
“I think it’s gotten us stronger, made us understand each other a little bit more,” she said, adding: “I’m just really happy that we have some normalcy in our lives.”
On living in the trailer for nearly nine months, Michael explained, “There’s really no privacy. You are in a couple hundred square feet at most of living space and you’ve got to be really, really understanding of each other’s emotions.”
“Going from losing everything to just starting to get your basic items back, it brought us closer,” he later said.
“What was important to us was us,” Michael added.
The couple moved into their newly built home in August.
“Getting back into the home was such a blessing,” Michael said. “It’s still overwhelming. It’s overwhelming to sit here and talk to you on our patio and be back at this point.”
The Weisbergs now plan on holding a celebration on the one-year anniversary of the fire this November.