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One of the industries hit hard by the Woolsey fire — a fast-moving and lethal inferno that has destroyed 70,000 acres — has been the substance-abuse treatment centers and sober-living facilities that flourish along the Malibu coast.
On any given day, the “Rehab Riviera,” as it’s informally known, is filled to capacity with patients from around the country and abroad, seeking to dry out against the peaceful backdrop of the Pacific Ocean — to say nothing of the countless celebrities, Hollywood executives and showbiz creative types who keep the facilities’ names in the news.
But over two dozen such centers currently sit empty, their patients and staff evacuated on Friday along with thousands of other Malibu residents after the fire jumped the 101 Freeway and swept across this picturesque seaside enclave.
Several of those facilities have already perished in the fires. Seasons In Malibu, a luxury detox facility that can cost up to $83,000 per month for treatment, lost one of its four houses to the blaze. “We’re devastated,” an employee says, adding that the fate of the remaining three houses remains unknown.
Further from shore off Trancas Canyon Road, Creative Care has also met a sad fate: Several of its houses were destroyed. The patients, meanwhile, were relocated to Airbnb rentals in safe areas and are “waiting it out,” according to an admissions counselor.
But not all the news has been bad. Reached by phone on Saturday morning, Annette Seidlitz, co-owner and program director of Gratitude Recovery Malibu, a sober-living facility, tells The Hollywood Reporter, “We just got info a short time ago that our house is still standing. We got some pictures. We’re really happy and grateful that our house has not burned down.”
Even so, Seidlitz was prepared for the worst and had a relocation plan in place long before the fire had begun. “We have a condo in the Valley that we brought anybody to,” she explains. “But one resident chose to find a hotel. One resident went with family. We’re sober living, so everyone is able to go on their own if they so choose — but we like to keep everyone together if possible.”
Other facilities have softened rules during the emergency. Sunset Malibu, located above Zuma Beach with panoramic water views of the Pacific, has relocated its patients to a hotel in Santa Barbara, and has granted them access to their mobile phones. Worried friends and relatives are encouraged to reach out.
Even amid the chaos and danger, treatment continues as scheduled at off-site locations for spots like Malibu Hills Treatment Center and Milestones Ranch Malibu. The latter facility has not been damaged by the fire.
But an employee says the current blaze is starting to feel like a semi-regular work hazard.
“We weren’t under mandatory evacuation during the Ventura Fire of 2017, but our executive director felt that since the winds were really high it would be best to evacuate the clients sooner than later, rather than in the middle of the night,” she says.
“Fires throughout the years have happened in Malibu,” she adds. “But it seems it’s more common nowadays with weather patterns changing. Up to two or three years ago it wasn’t such a regular occurrence.”
What’s clear, however, is that the full scope of the damage has yet begun to fully come into focus.
“It doesn’t look good,” says one employee at Inspire Malibu. “I’ll tell you that much.”
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