A Beverly Hills-born Realtor with a portfolio of multimillion dollar luxury listings across Southern California is struggling after not one, but two of his family homes were destroyed in wildfires over the weekend.
Chris Robertson, a broker-owner of Chris Robertson Real Estate Group, was left reeling after homes in Malibu Lake and Bell Canyon were leveled in the Woolsey and Hill wildfires, which together have charred more than 90,000 acres across Southern California while claiming two civilian lives.
His father, a cinematographer who worked as a grip on the Oscar-winning Susan Sarandon film “Dead Man Walking,” lost priceless film equipment and film reels as well as irreplaceable furniture, four classic cars and numerous family mementos, Robertson wrote in a GoFundMe post.
“My childhood family homes in Malibu Lake and Bell Canyon have burned down to the ground in the Woolsey fires,” Robertson posted on GoFundMe on Sunday. “We are beyond devastated. We wanted to keep our Malibu Lake home in the family forever. It has survived the worst wildfires, I was evacuated as a child many times. This fire was different. Nearly every home on the block is gone.”
The harrowing tragedy was but one in a countless string of catastrophes across California, as wildfires across the state engulfed 200,000 acres in flames and claimed the lives of at least 31 people and destroyed the homes of thousands, including those belonging to celebrities and Realtors such as Robertson. The deadly blazes have forced more than 250,000 residents to flee their homes while devastating thousands of structures, according to published reports.
California Governor Jerry Brown on Sunday called on President Donald Trump – who took to Twitter to blame the state’s own poor forest management for the destruction – to make a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration, which would provide additional funds and services to the recovery efforts.
“We have the best firefighters and first responders in the country working in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable,” Brown said in a statement. “We’re putting everything we’ve got into the fight against these fires and this request ensures communities on the front lines get additional federal aid.”
“To those who have lost friends and family members, homes and businesses, know that the entire state is with you,” Brown added. “As Californians, we are strong and resilient, and together we will recover.”
In Butte County, California, the Camp Fire has ravaged the town of Paradise and the immediate surrounding area to the east of Chico. At least 29 are dead from the fire, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL Fire), more than 6,000 residences have been destroyed and more than 15,000 structures are still under threat.
CAL Fire expects the numbers of destroyed structures will rise dramatically.
“We anticipate that number will increase significantly,” said Ventura County Fire Department Captain Steve Kaufmann, in a press conference about the Camp Fire. “I want to stress that there was major fire devastation in the perimeter of the fire.”
Strong winds have caused the fire to spread quickly, reaching 111,000 acres with only 25 percent containment, according to CAL Fire. More than 4,000 fire personnel are actively battling the flames, as they engulf homes in the area.
Woosley and Hill Fires
The Woosley and Hill fires, together encompassing more than 90,000 acres – mostly focused in Ventura County but also creeping into Los Angeles County – have claimed two civilian lives and destroyed 177 structures. The fires threaten nearly 60,000 more, according to CAL Fire.
Robertson, who’s brokerage is affiliated with Coldwell Banker Global Luxury, has raised $750 of his $15,000 goal at press time, for a GoFundMe in the wake of the destruction of his two family homes. Robertson’s three-person team boasts properties ranging from multi-million coastal mansions to inland California homes under $100,000.
A third childhood home, that his family no longer owns, was also destroyed in wildfires, Robertson wrote on Facebook. Funds from the GoFundMe will also go towards the family that lost that home.
“How do I explain to my young children that the homes and Lake they love where [my brother Mark Robertson] and I grew up are gone?” Robertson posted on Facebook.
A spokesperson for Realogy, the largest real estate holding company in the U.S., told Inman that about a dozen agents in the area have lost personal property, but that number could climb as more are allowed back into evacuation areas.
The company’s charitable arm is taking donations for its disaster relief fund and offices on the ground are collecting water, clothing, food and other supplies.
Unlike the Camp Fire, many of the homes threatened or destroyed by the Woosley Fires are luxury properties in the Malibu area. Celebrities including Neil Young, Caitlyn Jenner and Miley Cyrus confirmed they have lost their homes. The mansion where ABC’s “Bachelor” franchise is filmed was damaged by the fire and the ranch that is currently the set of HBO’s “Westworld” was destroyed.
“California is a paradise for us all. A gift,” Young wrote on Sunday. “We are sad not to be able to defend it against Mother Nature’s Wrath. We love California. We are not ill-prepared. We are up against something bigger than we have ever seen. It’s too big for some to see it at all. Firefighters have never seen anything like this in their lives. I have heard that said countless times in the past two days, and I have lost my home before to a California fire, now another.”