Smoke, Fear and Prayers for Downey and Bur­nett

Hol­ly­wood power pair among thou­sands forced to flee as Woolsey Fire closed in

Variety - - Top Billing | News - By CYN­THIA LITTLETON @va­ri­ety_­cyn­thia

MARK BUR­NETT AND Roma Downey were get­ting ready to go to the gym early on the morn­ing of Nov. 9 when the re­verse-911 call came in. The mes­sage was dire: Evac­u­ate im­me­di­ately.

The cou­ple looked around their home off Pa­cific Coast High­way in Mal­ibu, and saw the bil­low­ing clouds of smoke to the north. In a few sec­onds, they de­cided what to take on their way out the door. Downey, the pro­ducer and ac­tor, grabbed her late fa­ther’s Bi­ble and rosary. Bur­nett, pro­ducer and chair­man of MGM Tele­vi­sion, made a dash for some let­ters from his late mother.

Downey’s over­rid­ing con­cern was herd­ing the fam­ily’s 200-pound Ir­ish wolfhounds — Archie and Ruby — into her largest car. Once that was done, Bur­nett loaded a few bags into one of his cars. Then the two set out on what would prove to a be a five-and-a-half-hour crawl down PCH along with more than 200,000 other res­i­dents told to flee as the Woolsey Fire moved quickly to­ward the sea­side en­clave from the Agoura Hills area.

For Downey, the emo­tional jolt of the fire dan­ger didn’t sink in un­til much later. “We didn’t have a lot of time for sen­ti­men­tal­ity,” Downey says. “We did have a mo­ment as we went out the front door where we glanced back and em­braced. We were un­cer­tain if we would ever walk through our door again.”

Dur­ing that nerve-rack­ing drive, Downey couldn’t stop think­ing about im­ages from Par­adise, the fire-rav­aged town in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, where sev­eral were killed when fire over­took their cars on a high­way. “The smoke [plumes] kept get­ting big­ger and the sky kept get­ting darker,” she says. “I just kept pray­ing.”

The home that Downey and Bur­nett have shared for 13 years — a haven they call “The Sanc­tu­ary” — made it through the in­ferno. Downey knows how for­tu­nate they are and em­pha­sizes that her fo­cus is on be­ing part of ef­forts within the tight-knit com­mu­nity to aid those who lost ev­ery­thing. That list in­cludes their friend and neigh­bor Gerard But­ler.

“Mal­ibu is a strong com­mu­nity. Peo­ple will come to­gether and fig­ure this out — it’s go­ing to be a very messy cleanup,” she says. “We will get to go home. We are heart­bro­ken for the hun­dreds of oth­ers who don’t get to go home.”

We didn’t have a lot of time for sen­ti­men­tal­ity.” Roma Downey

Bet­ter Days Mark Bur­nett and Roma Downey at an oceans fundraiser. The pair had time to take only a few items be­fore flee­ing the ad­vanc­ing fire.

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