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Area firefighter Steven Moak was off-duty on Nov. 9, but there was no question in his mind that he belonged in Malibu.
For 37 years, Malibu has been the only home Moak has known. When he arrived at his childhood home on Galahad Drive, which his family sold six short months ago, the attic was ablaze, and a crew of firefighters was on scene. Moak wasted no time joining the fight, climbing atop the ranch’s roof and using a chainsaw to carve a hole in it. The attic was able to ventilate as the on-scene firefighters doused the flames with water, and, in the end, just the home’s garage was lost.
“My mom was in tears when I told her I saved our property,” Moak said.
But Moak wasn’t content with stopping there. He proceeded down Galahad, helping out-of-area firefighters get the lay of the land and working to save every single home on his former street. One of those homes belonged to the Corrodis, Moak’s longtime neighbors, for whom he left a note on the kitchen counter. The note read: “To family, I stayed on our street to save your home and my old home.”
The note was read sooner rather than later, as two of the home’s former residents also stayed behind to fight the fire at their own homes before trekking to their childhood home.
“After fighting to save our row of condos at the Malibu Gardens, my dad, Jason Biheller, and uncle Maxwell Corrodi ran to my grandma’s house to battle the fires there,” wrote Asia Biheller in an email to the Surfside News. “Within minutes they ran into the fire department saving the Corrodi house, and once the fire department left my dad and uncle found this note on my grandparent’s kitchen counter from Steven Moak.
“ ... [The note] made our entire family cry. My grandparents built their home with their own hands years ago, and it’s the home they raised their 18 adopted children and my incredibly large family in. Acres of their land burned, but without our dear friend and firefighter Steven Moak we would have nothing to come back to.”
To Asia Biheller, and likely to many others, Moak is a hero.
Through Friday and Saturday, Moak stayed in Malibu, also aiding firefighters — some of whom were official firefighters and others whom were residents who stayed behind — in Point Dume, where many of his longtime friends grew up. Moak estimates that he was able to save 22 homes in Point Dume, and he also offered daily briefings to the area’s residents. While Moak said he doesn’t promote residents fighting fires, he said he wanted those who did stay to be safe. The briefings continued through last week, even as the fire eased its grip on Malibu, and Moak shifted toward offering tips on preparing for the forecasted rain and mudslides.
Moak has been a firefighter for 12 years, and he said the Woolsey Fire was among the worst he’s seen.
“It was a very heartbreaking battle because there was not that many firefighters in Point Dume when I was there,” Moak said. “ ... We definitely didn’t have enough resources on this fire.”
For Moak, the fire quickly became personal, and, though he tried, he was not able to do it all. He had to helplessly watch the Seminole Springs home of his sister, Barbie Herron, burn, as well as the Point Dume homes of two of his friends.
“As a professional firefighter, I stay calm and collected and try to put my emotions to the side, but that was very hard to do,” Moak said.