Blog: You’re Not Going to Believe It

Burt Ross

You’re not going to believe it, of this I am certain. Last Friday morning, I was in my rental home minding my own business, doing what I like most—absolutely nothing—when the phone rang or vibrated, or whatever phones do today. My dear friend Oscar Best sounded anxious.

“Are you okay?” he inquired. I thought this might be a trick question until he continued, “There is a fire in your area.”

I had no idea what Oscar was talking about, but to play it safe, I looked out my office window, and there, seemingly just several hundred yards above my house, was so much smoke even a moron could figure out there was a raging fire right over the hill. 

I asked myself what had I done to infuriate God so much that he would first burn the house I owned and then try to destroy the house I rented. I don’t know why I didn’t just get hit with lightning or crushed by a Mack truck, and why God preferred to annihilate my living quarters instead. 

But I had no time to dwell on self-pity. I needed to think—something that does not come naturally to me. My bride was elsewhere, and those who know me know I am thoroughly useless without my wife of 37 years. 

First, I needed to explore an escape route. We live on a narrow street with one way in and one way out. If the fire came my way, and somehow blocked my exit, I would have to come up with another plan.

The house is on a steep hill above PCH, and so I went to the edge of the cliff to contemplate my descent. I would have to climb over two fences and rappel hundreds of yards down the hillside. I had no rope and, if I did, there was no way I was rappelling anywhere anytime. In this instance, rappel is a euphemism for tumbling, like when Jack of “Jack and Jill” lost his crown.

Rather than leaving, I decided to stay and take on the raging inferno. (Actually, I had not yet seen any flames and, in fact, the mild wind was taking the fire away from, not toward, my house.) I took a rather pathetic looking garden hose without a nozzle, pointed it at where the fire seemed to be coming from, and proceeded to spray water all over the place—mostly upon myself. 

At this point, a miracle occurred. My bride arrived, took over, watered the house and its surroundings, packed photos in case an evacuation was ordered, and lent a sense of calm to the situation. 

The whole thing was nerve racking. I could not help but ask myself why I live here in Malibu when I am free to go anywhere else in the world. The answer was obvious. During the day, I heard from many friends who offered to come and rescue me, house me, and so forth. And so to Diane Carter, Brad Smith, Jay Scott, Scott Tallal, Karen York, Phil Bellomy—to you and our other friends—that’s why we will stay here, fire or not.