Channels photographer evacuates from Woolsey Fire

Fire Fighters from the Orange County Fire Authority battle the Woolsey Fire as it burns the hillside near West Lake High School on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Roughly 75,000 homes in both Ventura and Los Angeles counties have been evacuated.

Delaney Smith, Editor-in-Chief

Nate Stephenson, a photographer for The Channels, was evacuated at 3 a.m. Friday from his home in West Lake during the Woolsey Fire. He is safe and currently sheltering with a friend in Los Angeles.

“I could feel the heat from the fire on my skin even though it seemed far away,” Stephenson said. “At first I couldn’t believe that’s what I was feeling.”

Stephenson and his housemates initially went to help their friend and neighbor get his valuables out of his residence before evacuating themselves, at which point it became clear to them the entire area was engulfed in flames. They went back to their house to get their valuables, hose the house down, and turn on the sprinklers in an effort to protect it from the embers before fleeing the scene.

“The 101 was closed and traffic was terrible at this point, so I decided I wanted to get photos of the flames before heading into the traffic,” Stephenson explained.

He took photos last year in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire, but said he wished that he had taken photos of the fire in action and knew that this was his chance.

Stephenson went to several locations to shoot the fire. He started at the YMCA near Westlake High School, but quickly had to leave as it was becoming surrounded by flames. He said he also drove through suburban areas and houses were sporadically burnt through the neighborhood while others were untouched by the fire.

He drove through the Malibu Canyon last, where he found a horse ranch near Kanan Road. After watching the owners release their horses into the pastures in an attempt to allow them an escape from the fire, Stephenson continued on until police told him he must turn around.

“That’s where it got scary because when we went back just 10 minutes later the whole area around the ranch was engulfed in flames,” Stephenson said. “I have never seen a fire move so fast in my life.”