10:35am PT by Jackie Strause
Chris Harrison Hopes 'Bachelor' Franchise Will Return to Mansion Damaged by Wildfire
The house that has famously come to be known as "The Bachelor Mansion" was among the many homes located in a high-risk area of the fast-moving and devastating Woolsey Fire that burned through Southern California last month. Collectively, the devastating wildfires — also including Northern California's Camp Fire — claimed nearly 20,000 homes and businesses across the state. The Bachelor mansion property, though badly damaged, was not destroyed.
"The house that we use for production, office space and storage, that burned down. Then the outside patio, which was wood, burned down and stuff melted around the house. But the actual house is standing," franchise host Chris Harrison tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Hopefully, we’ll be back shooting at the mansion next season [for The Bachelorette]. The goal is to get back there."
Harrison and the ABC franchise are gearing up for the return of The Bachelor with star Colton Underwood, set to premiere Jan. 7. The reality series was filming Underwood's upcoming 23rd season when the fire broke out on Nov. 9, but production had moved off-location at that stage in the reality dating competition and the crew had already vacated the home. THR reported that by that afternoon, the lower house used as basecamp for producers was indeed destroyed, and that the back patio was burning and the flames were moving toward the house.
Harrison, who lives only five miles away from the Agoura Hills mansion and who also was being evacuated, said he and the rest of the Bachelor crew were learning about the status of the reality series' iconic home from afar. Though the mansion has served as the show's set for the beginning weeks of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette seasons since 2007, the private home, built in 2005, is owned by Marshall Haraden and his family, who leave the house for two months out of the year when ABC comes in to film.
"I know Marshall and the Haraden family very well because they’re neighbors of mine," says Harrison. "I was texting with Marshall throughout the day during the fires making sure that, first of all, he and his family were safe and that they got out. I live just the next exit over and I knew it was coming through our area, but I heard that his canyon was getting hit particularly hard. That day, he let me know he wasn’t sure about the house. Most of that day, we didn’t know, and we assumed it was gone because the fire was rushing through that canyon so fast and it was so ferocious."
Later that day, someone was able to confirm to Haraden that the lower house had burned, but the status of the rest of the house was unclear. It wasn't until the areas were granted repopulation that the owner was able to return, three days later, to see that the main structure of the home had survived the blaze. But the areas affected by the fires would not have immediate access to water, gas and electricity.
"We got evacuated for two or three days but my family got out, my kids got out and the rest is just stuff. You quickly realize all that matters is that people get out and obviously, some people didn’t," says Harrison of the wildfires, the deadliest and most destructive in California history. "My neighbors and people in our city got hit hard. The Thousand Oaks, Westlake, Agoura areas down to Malibu just got hammered."
Haraden recently expressed confidence that the ABC franchise will be able to return to his home for filming, and Harrison shares that sentiment. "We do a lot of good in the community. We shop here, eat here and stay here at the hotels. And dump a lot of money into the community when we shoot here," says the host. "So my goal is to make sure we get back into the house and use it, especially this season, to show that we’re back and that the city is good. And hopefully, bring the money and jobs back here."
Underwood's season of The Bachelor will kick off in January and will air through March. The Bachelorette typically premieres at the end of May, but the season begins filming months earlier. The new lead is announced at the end of The Bachelor season and then quickly whisked off into production. That gives Haraden and producers a few months to get everything set.
But, it will look different. "That area really looks like you’re on another planet when you’re driving through that canyon all the way down to Malibu. It looks like the moon or Mars, it’s really bizarre," Harrison adds.