Music Community Devastated by California Fires

Three massive fires continue to rage across California as of Tuesday morning.
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Film composer and record producer Richard Gibbs, former keyboard player with Oingo Boingo, lost his Malibu home to the fire, but his Woodshed Studio survived unscathed. Photo: Richard Gibbs/Facebook.

Film composer and record producer Richard Gibbs, former keyboard player with Oingo Boingo, lost his Malibu home to the fire, but his Woodshed Studio survived unscathed. Photo: Richard Gibbs/Facebook.

Los Angeles, CA (November 13, 2018)—Three fires continue to rage through Northern and Southern California, taking lives and destroying property across a total of 200,000 acres, impacting the homes and studios of many in the music community.

As of Tuesday, November 13, the Woolsey fire had devastated over 96,000 acres in Malibu, Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks, and was just 35 percent contained. Two people have been reported dead as a result of the fires, and 435 structures have been destroyed with 57,000 considered to be under threat.

Film composer and record producer Richard Gibbs, former keyboard player with Oingo Boingo, lost his Malibu home to the fire. But video shot by a friend and posted on Gibbs’ Facebook page on Saturday, November 11 showed that his famed studio, featured in PSN in 2016, appears to have made it through the devastation unscathed. “The Woodshed lives on,” wrote Gibbs.

Producer and singer-songwriter Robin Thicke and his girlfriend, model April Love Geary, lost their Malibu home. “It's just rubble. There's nothing left," he said in an interview on ETonline.com.

According to Billboard, producer and musician Butch Walker wrote on Facebook that his house was “still standing. Yard and other structures are toast.” Walker previously lost everything, including his recording studio, when a 2007 Malibu fire destroyed the house he was renting from Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Billboard also reported that producer, engineer and composer Charley Pollard lost his house in Malibu. Pollard’s Dragonfly Creek Recording Studio, which has hosted sessions by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson and Neil Young, is reportedly still standing.

Jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour’s house in Malibu’s Point Dume area was destroyed by the fires. Ritenour, who listed the house for sale in May 2017, wrote on Facebook, “Recently, I found out that I needed to have a medical procedure that could not wait and resulted in canceling my recent tour to Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, & New York … Shortly after receiving that news, the fires began in California, that have been devastating for so many people. Unfortunately, we lost our house of 40 years in Malibu along with my recording studio & everything with it.”

Also affected was Mike Garson, a pianist and longtime collaborator with David Bowie. “My family and I are safe. Unfortunately, my home and studio have burned to the ground and we are devastated,” he wrote on Twitter.

Popular entertainers including Miley Cyrus, Neil Young and Gerard Butler have lost their homes to the Woolsey fire.

Cyrus tweeted that she, her animals and “love of my life,” presumably a reference to her fiancé, actor Liam Hemsworth, were safe. “My house no longer stands,” she tweeted, referring to the home that she bought in 2016 above Malibu’s Paradise Point. Cyrus’s house is next-door to Hemsworth’s home, which he purchased in 2014 from songwriter Matthew Wilder, who co-wrote “Girls Night Out” for the Hannah Montana TV series starring Cyrus.

Neil Young lost the Malibu house that he shared with wife Daryl Hannah. Young took to his website to rage against climate change deniers in an essay. “We are up against something bigger than we have ever seen,” he wrote. “I have lost my home before to a California fire, now another.” Meeker Mansion, the Malibu home where Young lived and recorded albums including Zuma, was destroyed by an arsonist in 1978.

Within the Woolsey fire burn area, large regions, including Bell Canyon, Oak Park, Calabasas and Topanga, have been under mandatory evacuation orders, causing an estimated 250,000 to flee. For a time, parts of Simi Valley and West Hills were also threatened, prompting voluntary evacuations.

Renowned producer and engineer Al Schmitt and his wife, Lisa, evacuated their home in Bell Canyon, and posted on Facebook on Friday, November 10: “Just to let everyone know our house is still standing, but we can’t go in yet.”

Michael Abbott, head of audio for the annual GRAMMY Awards telecast, fled his house with his family under the evacuation order. On November 10, he posted on Facebook that he was back in his home, but at 2:40 a.m. that night was awakened by fire trucks across the street, where one of two houses that previously caught fire had reignited.

A long list of celebrities including Kim Kardashian West, Lady Gaga, Alyssa Milano, Orlando Bloom, Guillermo del Toro, Cher, Martin Sheen, Mark Hamill and former One Direction singer Liam Payne are waiting to learn the fate of their home in the Woolsey fire burn area.

Western Town at Paramount Ranch, a film location in the mountains of Malibu State Park in operation since 1927, was almost totally destroyed. The site has long been used by film and television productions, most recently including HBO’s Westworld.

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Just a few miles to the west of the Woolsey fire, the smaller Hill fire between Thousand Oaks and Camarillo has scorched 4,500 acres, destroying at least two structures, and is 90 percent contained. Firefighters reportedly expect to have it fully contained by Thursday and mandatory evacuations have been lifted.

Meanwhile, the Camp fire in Butte County in Northern California has become the state’s most destructive and the deadliest on record. It has destroyed at least 6,453 homes and 260 commercial structures across 125,000 acres and killed 42. More than 200 people are still unaccounted for. The town of Paradise, popular with retirees, has practically been wiped off the map.