The recent report on the actions of LA County, the fire department and the sheriff’s department was a little less than news to the victims of the Woolsey Fire. I wrote a 44-page document along with 30 pictures of the damages and have heard nothing from anyone in charge, or the politicians who haven’t stopped patting themselves on the back. It is now over a year and we still have no electricity, which we have been begging for for nine months. We have nine people I’m responsible for, one of whom has stage four cancer and is desperately sick and in need of electricity. The county won’t allow it until we have a building permit, which they seem to feel that we really don’t need. I’ve been a resident of Malibu for 50 years and one would think I could be grandfathered in. I’ve been trying to build a hay barn for over nine months. Supposedly it was approved last March. But no, the fire department got involved and wants sprinklers in the hay barn, at one time a septic tank, electricity, fire retardant covering the building, more soil tests (four taken before that cleared us), road compaction that hasn’t changed and they can drive it just like they did before the fire, and now fuel modification for distance from any building, (what building? they all burned to the ground) and the names of, and location of, any fuel on the property. There is nothing around the barn site, and near the workshop area there is a neighbor’s burned out tree. Are we supposed to remove our neighbor’s damages? They want all this on a 40-acre place? 

I’m absolutely livid with the LA County. Every time I have gone into their offices, a few think it’s cute to make fun of my architect who is Mexican, licensed and fully qualified, but has been heckled to pieces with making changes on the plans to suit them over 20 times and sometimes the same thing that was changed initially. I’ve received five phone calls from the county to come in and pick up my permit and to pay the fees. I go in and it has always been “What permit?” I was told the permit would cost $653.60, which I paid. However, that was not for the permit, it was for planning fees. I’ve been made to wait for two to three hours each time and I usually leave in tears empty handed, wondering how in God’s name can I help the people on the property. It must be nice that the office has three-day weekends, closes shop at 3:30 every day, makes fun of a victim and gives no assistance whatsoever. 

Our property may not have suffered the total destruction that it did if we had had water to fight the fire with. We had our own fire equipment fully set up but the water lines by Peter Strauss Ranch were destroyed. We were doomed from the start and had no notice of the fire approaching. We could not evacuate, yet we saved all 48 of our horses by putting them in our large pastures where they calmly ate the remains of their morning meal. We are so angry at locations the deputies blocked for weeks, and access to get help was frustrating and in some cases encountering pretty nasty behavior by them. I’d like to see them wear the same clothes that one wore when trying to escape the fire for six weeks. I had difficulty finding any disaster center or its location, or even being able to get to it. Finding clothing to fit me was another challenge. Other than children’s clothes, what was offered wasn’t going to do it. Red Cross was no help. FEMA wouldn’t help because there were too many people at the same address. 

The mortgage company has confiscated all our insurance funds so we can’t use them unless we start building, which the county doesn’t want us to do. The horses and other animals are still on the property. We need the hay barn to protect our hay, which has been ruined twice and thousands of dollars lost. We’ve tried to fix what we could with our own funds. My health has deteriorated, my son-in-law can no longer work due to the progression of his cancer, my son and daughter work outside of the ranch to try to help keep us all fed and clothed for the coming winter, and we continue to fight on. We’re about ready to re build the buildings we need without the county’s blessings. Since they seem to feel that we must jump through a myriad of hoops which may take years before they can say ,“OK, here’s your permits.” I just hope I live long enough to see this ranch rebuilt to its once beautiful and serene atmosphere. Telling people they cannot even have temporary electricity for over a year is absolutely disgraceful. So much for all the rhetoric about helping the victims of the Woolsey Fire. They obviously believe we have not suffered enough.

Carol Holmes

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