Video: Riding Through Ashes After The Devastating Fires in California

May 25, 2019
by Marshall Mullen  

On November 8, 2018, at 2:24 pm, a fire broke out near Simi Valley, California that would become one of the largest fires in Los Angles County history. At 5:15 am, the fire crossed the 101 freeway and burned towards Malibu, California waking up residents with a thick plume of black smoke. It seemed like the world was ending as winds upwards of 50 miles an hour whipped massive walls of flame through the canyons and mountains.

Marshall Mullen recalls his experience, “while the majority evacuated, some residents stayed behind and defended their homes. Many were successful, and I was fortunate enough to be one of those people with the help of my two friends. We owe our gratitude to the firefighters and everyone who stayed behind to protect anything they could. Considering the magnitude of the fire, an exceptional amount of homes were saved.”

By the end of it all, many people were less lucky, with 1,500 structures and three lives lost to the Woolsey fire. 88% of the Santa Monica mountain range we call home burned.

The area was left desolate, closed off for weeks with residents going a month without power, and even longer without cell, landline or Internet. The open space we know and love was reduced to smoldering remains, resembling another planet more than the brush-covered hills we knew so well as mountain bikers. Roads were impassable, covered in fallen trees, debris and downed power lines. The landscape resembled the moon, with varying shades of black, grey and white being the only thing visible.

Out of the ashes, however, came the rare chance to explore terrain that rider Marshall Mullen had never seen. Old, overgrown roads became open again, and trails long gone could once again be used. It was a short window before the winter rains brought re-growth, but from the ashes came a unique opportunity. Watch as Marshall Mullen explores the Martian landscape his home has become.

"There was a brief moment in time where the riding was some of the best I have ever ridden. That window is now gone as the hillsides are covered in new growth which is a symbol for the new beginning in Malibu." - Marshall Mullen


"I would like to take a moment to thank all the firefighters and first responders who spent countless hours defending our town during this disaster. Those who stayed back showed an incredible amount of courage, and without you, a lot more would be lost. "

"My deepest gratitude goes out to my two friends who stayed and defended with me for the full 20-hour long fight. Thank you." - Marshall Mullen

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  • 126 14
 Dude you aren't supposed to ride in a post burn area. You can literally see the fledgling growth on the ground that he's just tearing up with his tires. Like I'm all for mountain biker freedom but this is the kind of stuff that gets forestry services pissed off, give the landscape a chance to recuperate before you go tearing all the plant life up. Disappointing from PinkBike tbh
  • 18 4
 With you on this.
  • 21 5
 Seems most of the Specialized pro-brahs around LA give zero fvcks about what is legal/prudent/conscientious.
  • 15 11
 @Eatsdirt: Can't ride in LA or OC without breaking laws, it's a weird place
  • 8 11
 @jcav5: Patently false but ok
  • 2 19
flag david-kooi (May 25, 2019 at 12:19) (Below Threshold)
 @zaalrottunda: It's not that 2 bikers are going to ruin the new growth, it's people getting bad ideas where to ride their bike
  • 15 4
 @david-kooi: partly true, but in reality everywhere they just rode they ruined the new growth. Again, those areas are super vulnerable after a big fire, and the very small amount of growth that is starting out now is not going to survive some dude tearing up all the roots and starting growth just for a semi-cool edit.
It's just irresponsible riding, unfortunately there are too many idiots with bikes out there ruining it for everyone else.
  • 5 23
flag Cm223 (May 25, 2019 at 14:56) (Below Threshold)
 Those specialized guys have done more for mtb trails in our area in 1 day then you have in your entire life.
  • 9 1
 I completely agree. We actually live in a world where common sense doesn`t mean anything and.... yeah... nothing to add. I`m really pissed off. Cheers Bro`
  • 6 1
 @Cm223: easy accomplishment considering I'm not in that area.
  • 10 2
 @Franzzz: Really bothers me as there are areas affected by fires near me that have remained closed year after year because idiots like this don't stay out of restricted regrowth areas, and so the landscape takes ages to bounce back. Frustrating really.
  • 4 1
 @zaalrottunda: Hum... I perfectly see what you mean. Therefore, most people are not educated to that; that`s not their fault, but politically speaking, if the authorities don`t take the measures that must be taken in such cases, what else can we expect? Anyway, that`s how it goes... Let`s stay positive as much as we can Smile
  • 6 1
 @Franzzz: Why do we have to rely on authorities to instruct what common sense is?
  • 3 0
 @zaalrottunda: Yeah.... well, I don`t know. I might be a dreamer ;-)
  • 2 0
 @zaalrottunda: sorry I was trying to reply to @eatsdirt
  • 3 2
 @Cm223: My sweat equity aside... History has it at some point the land managers are going to shut the fun down as long as the "park rules" are in place. Look them up if you haven't. It's possibly one hiker conflict or medevac away. Riding illegal trails is one thing... blatant disregard and promoting them through many different avenues is another. I think your boys are decent enough guys but I see a lot of selling the trails out for personal gain. We want the same things but don't have to agree...
  • 2 9
flag Cm223 (May 25, 2019 at 16:56) (Below Threshold)
 I’m pretty sure you ride a bike from a manafacture that holds demos at the trails you speak of. Being a Hippocrate is weak. @Eatsdirt:
  • 2 1
 @Cm223: Hippocrate??? Hypocrite you mean... na?
  • 2 7
flag Cm223 (May 26, 2019 at 6:30) (Below Threshold)
 Good catch. Your award is in the mail @Franzzz:
  • 15 1
 E-bikes in a sensitive burn area. Utterly ridiculous on many fronts.
  • 1 2
 @zaalrottunda: You must study this a lot with science like that
  • 15 7
 I have a bunch on land in the burn zone.. I rode the hell out of it on my dirt bike.... there's now no trace and the mustard plant is 6ft high, everything is completely un-ridable. Nature is for more powerful than bike tires. ....We have this strange idea that ecosystems get destroyed by tires... but think about really how long will it take a trail to become unusable when people stop maintaining it... In my experience it's about 2 years... after 5, it's barely noticeable it ever existed. Even big bench cut fire roads disappear in the overgrowth in 10 to 20 years... Which is nothing in the timeline of the earth.
  • 5 1
 @mark4444: Awesome, now imagine 1000+ people are doing it week after week. The issue isn't two people doing it, it's them doing it and giving other idiots the idea.
  • 1 1
 @Jakebutterfield: You must struggle a lot with common sense issues like this.
  • 8 0
 @zaalrottunda: Wonder why did pinkbike posted this but not Kyle Warner's bike raffle to raise money for the northern California fires?
  • 7 3
 @mark4444: Amen. As a trail builder I've learned first-hand that maintenance is a heavy chore every year or mother nature swallows it back up quickly. Lot of outraged people chiming in that ride 8ft wide fireroads and drive on 100 ft wide freeways regularly. These same people live in neighborhoods with stores and houses, roads and parking lots covered in cement where forests, grasslands, and deserts used to be... but man can they throw stones.
  • 4 0
 @zaalrottunda: This is the statement of the century. People need to think about their actions.
  • 2 1
 @Franzzz: Isn't that an oxymoron. I'd expect a crate for a hippo to be very strong. I can't imagine a weak hippo crate working very well at all. They are strong animals after all.
  • 3 6
 All the lames above ^. I enjoyed the video, great job. I too rode after a fire in LA is was so awsome!! It was truly a blank canvas and a blast to do it. Yes the trail is now overgrown and there is no trace of my trail, and if you ever lived in Socal you will know stuff gets overgrown in a season. I am getting sooo tired of crying/whining men. Yes we all need to do a better job to protect our plant, but these are just ridiculous comments.
  • 3 1
 @ranke: as a trail builder when you go and ask the land managers for permission to reroute your trail due to mudslides or other acts of nature and they kick you in the balls and throw you out just remember this video because this video is a kick in the balls to them.
Mountain bikers are not the only people that can be upset about videos like this.
  • 1 1
 @zaalrottunda: Actually the only issue is ongoing human maintenance, without that it's gone. Trail builders know this... trails take a ton of work year after to year, just to keep them around. Build a trail, watch it for a few years, you'll share this view.
  • 3 1
 @ranke: so because you build trails, and some people are a*sholes to you, people should just be a*sholes with bikes? I'm not following your logic
  • 3 2
 @Rider656: If you've ever lived in SoCal you know that fires devastate areas and massive public usage of the same area will prevent them from bouncing back. are you really that stupid that you already forgot the serious drought we narrowly left?
  • 2 1
 @mark4444: That literally has nothing to do with my comment. I do build trails. I don't publicize videos of me riding in damaged areas though because that sends a call out to other idiots who don't want to obey some common sense rules. Everyone is acting like California bounces back after every fire when this is the most rain we've got in years.
Live in Socal and bank on rain and regrowth= Morons.
  • 2 0
 @brncr6: Sounds like you've had some tough run-ins with land managers! I recommend wearing a cup next time.
  • 4 1
 @ranke: Nah just had a house burn down in '03, and several friends lose their homes in '07. Those were very dry years and despite everyone claiming "Oh it'll grow back in no time because this one patch of grass I see grew really fast", we didn't get significant rains following the fires, so that area was f*cked up for a long time.

Same thing with Hurkey Creek in Idyllwild, last 3 times I called they still hadn't opened the fire damaged areas even after 2+ years after the burndown because the area hadn't returned to its previous status yet.

People think that mustard plant growth is a sign of rehabilitation of the landscape while the gloss over the fact that its a weed and thats what weeds do.
LOL, lots of idiots on this site unfortunately.
  • 1 0
 @Eatsdirt: whomever downvoted you is an idiot. Top notch comment dude, we need more people with your mentality.
  • 1 0
 Wait a minute . . . at 2:15 we hear from Malibu mayor Rick MULLEN. Is this any relation to the author of this article???

Looks like they're riding not where trails used to be, but over whatever areas of bare hillside they could find.
  • 2 0
 @SeanC1: Idk, hopefully get scolded.
  • 1 0
 dude it doesn't matter. it's not like there are trail networks going up in that area
  • 2 1
 @Westermann: which is kind of the entire point of my gripe.
  • 1 2
 @SeanC1: any word on that?
  • 1 0
 @zaalrottunda: a quick google search shows that it is!
  • 1 0
 @SeanC1: ?? what? It is what? lol
what happened
  • 39 4
 Honestly, Pinkbike should take this shit down. It's encouraging other people to ride areas that they shouldn't. Learn some basics of trail health and forestry before going biking please. And don't do what this guy did, and certainly don't publicize it like Pinkbike has done.
  • 5 19
flag CaliCol (May 26, 2019 at 10:18) (Below Threshold)
 Bro, go hug a tree
  • 7 2
 @CaliCol: dang, such wit.
  • 1 3
 @zaalrottunda: guess what, tree boy? The world and nature were here long before us and will be here long after us. That stuff is probably already well on it’s way back to normal. I really doubt this video was made with the intention of blatantly destroying anything but the-always-offended-by-everything-crowd (you) always have to chime in with some social justice warrior BS. Did you ask John Legend and Chrissy Tiegan what they thought before posting?
  • 2 0
Ya calling someone an idiot for acting like an idiot, isn't exactly going SJW, but hey I wouldn't really expect anyone who starts their sentences with "guess what tree boy" to be throwing around any quality comments.

Nowhere in my comment do I say what they're doing is offensive, just irresponsible. If you are going to be stupid, at least be relevant and stupid Smile
  • 1 2
 @zaalrottunda: hahahahaha you’re pretty entertaining.
  • 1 2
 @zaalrottunda: you said “heresy,” hahahaha
  • 1 0
 @CaliCol: wish I could say the same, but alas you are about as much a comedian/intellectual as Hillary Clinton is a sex symbol.
  • 1 1
 @zaalrottunda: you're still at it! hahaha! You may continue entertaining me, I have grown a bit accustomed to it and I might miss it! I never professed to be a comedian or intellectual but, alas, we agree on something (Hillary comment).
  • 1 0
 @CaliCol: bro you're acting like this and you're 40? oof
  • 1 2
 @zaalrottunda: acting like what? Because I told you to go hug a tree and then have just responded in kind to your corresponding retort I am "acting" like something? I can say a lot about you based on your age, where you live and your little profile pic but it would be to no avail because it wold all be assumptions. Because I'm 40 and have said things you don't like doesn't make me anymore ignorant or arrogant than you especially since you have some pretty silly comments in your history that are pretty ignorant and arrogant in my opinion which, according to your won logic, is unbecoming of an adult. You're 27 and to profess that you know what it is that pinkbike should or shouldn't post on their web page shows that you're not old enough to understand that because people think a video or article is acceptable, but you don't, is NOT a bad thing and doesn't mean nobody else can enjoy it.
  • 1 0
 @CaliCol: dude, you need a hobby or something. Are you new to how comments work? People voice their disapproval, and mine was simply based on observations from past wildfires.
Your initial comment was "go hug a tree bro" which I thought was immature for a 12 year old, let alone a 40 year old. Then you continue to do this petty shit, further illustrating your immaturity.
I'm not judging you because you said things I disagree with, I'm judging you because you are 40 and you write comments like "tree boy", and instead of arguing my point you just attack me personally.
Good luck being a 40year old child.
  • 1 0
 @CaliCol: "I can say a lot about you based on your age, where you live and your little profile pic"
lol, go for it. Again, personal attacks when all i did was point out your immaturity. Is that why you're upset? being told how to behave by someone almost half your age?
  • 1 1
 @zaalrottunda: Look at you! getting really mad! If you didn't care so much about what I have to say and I am in fact just a 40 year old child, you wouldn't respond. I suppose you can make deductions based on my profile but it hasn't been updated in about 5 or 6 years so good luck with that. Just go promote the new green deal and picket in Malibu where the fires were at hahaha. You're the one getting bent out of shape, not me hahaha.
  • 1 0
 @CaliCol: says the guy making personal attacks. Lol, you're a waste of time. And I wasn't the one who said I can make deductions based on your profile, I was quoting you you dumbass lol XD
toodles buster
  • 1 1
 @zaalrottunda: talk to excavator666. You guys can lose sleep over me together. He's mad because I told him that if he is so concerned about tear offs left at the Fort William track then he should get off of his arse and go police them up himself haha. Go help him.
  • 1 0
 @CaliCol: lol, you are enough of a joke being as old as you are and behaving like you do.
  • 1 0
 @zaalrottunda: (zaalrotrunda pounding fists!): you personally attacked me! (zaalrotunda kicking feet!): you’re so immature!

Gotta do better than that, bro!
  • 1 0
 @CaliCol: lol, no i don't, you're doing it for me. you're 40 years old...........just stop embarrassing yourself
  • 1 0
 @CaliCol: 40 and attacking people online...... how pathetic and empty is your existence that this is how you conduct yourself lol. I'm done wasting my time on you.
  • 24 0
 Once upon a time someone said you could avoid these fires by raking.
  • 3 1
 That was hilarious when he spoke of the Finnish raking the ground as part of forest fire management!!
  • 22 0
 nature is trying to grow up again , and you just ride on it .... where is the respect .
  • 21 4
 Damn ! wildfire and e-bike. Is that the future ?
  • 11 3
 You missed out floods, which will kill some of the e-bikes?
  • 3 3
 @aljoburr: sorry for the downvote Frown
  • 2 19
flag aljoburr (May 25, 2019 at 8:55) (Below Threshold)
 @chilla661: Not a problem every one has their opinion & my opinion is that California so called wild fires were set not any accident!
There is plenty of evidence out there, but most has been deleted?
Just like this & other comments on here?
The truth is out there, but your not aloud to talk about it!
  • 12 0
 @aljoburr: If conspiracy theorists were better at spelling, maybe I'd have a higher chance of believing them.
  • 2 13
flag aljoburr (May 25, 2019 at 10:42) (Below Threshold)
 @akoukov: Grammar Nazis are seriously up their own ass!
  • 3 0
 @aljoburr: I believe his point is if a conspiracy theorist cant even spell or use proper grammar, they lose all credibility.
  • 1 1
 @akoukov: Agreed. If one can’t be bothered to simply spell check your words or learn basic grammar, how can I trust their ability to analyze a series of events with complex implications?
  • 12 1
 LOTS of trail work ahead of us for the foreseeable future. We've been battered by fires all over in recent years (Verdugo, Mt Lowe/Mt Wilson, Castaic, Tujunga canyon, half of the Santa Monicas). Most everything in these ranges that run down in to a basin or valley has been overridden and erased by sand due to our abnormally wet year, both a blessing and a burden). Mud slides have wrecked miles of trails. Mulholland drive ("The Snake for us motorheads) is sliding down the mountain sides on certain places, still to this day and remains closed. I understand the urge for a rare opportunity, but it seems like a sacrilege to take advantage that landscape in a weakened state. Especially since most of those areas are still closed to the public and the Sheriffs dept regularly chases people out of there.
  • 11 2
 Jesus... so forgetting for a moment about what zaalrottundra said in the first post (which I wholeheartedly agree with) regarding rider responsibility, I wouldn't even attempt to ride these areas out of respect for the human tragedy that took place there.
My point of view is this: Riding isn't about dominating mother nature or trying to prove how badass you are in her presence; it doesn't matter how many squats or leg presses you did that morning, it doesn't matter how hard or long you can spin, it doesn't matter how fast you think you are, it doesn't matter if you're a World Cup pro - the mountain always wins in the end and by extension, so does Mother Nature. You'll always chase that perfect run and Mother Nature dictates the rules, terms, and conditions under which she allows you do so. The dirt is always moving, the rocks are always moving, and the conditions are always changing. Respect that. Understand that. Embrace that. It's Her domain; we're just inserting ourselves in it for our own self-motivated pursuits.
The fires that happened here - people died, people lost their everything. Homes, pictures of loved ones, family heirlooms, written traditions, all gone. The fires were "Biblical" as described by a friend who was on the ground there during that time. For someone who questions the existence of a higher power, that's pretty heavy. It was like the whole world went away and something else took the place of reality - you couldn't see the sky, you couldn't see more than 30ft in front of you with a wall of fire around you.
The way this edit was put together - I get that it is a fun prospect, but it lacks self-awareness. Self awareness of what the land and environment has suffered and must recover from and a lack of self-awareness of the human loss. To me, the idea of riding here would be like standing on a plateau overlooking Korengal Valley in Afghanistan and saying "DUDE, those abandoned forward operating bases and artillery craters could help us make a SWEET flow-line!" It doesn't make any sense.
Respect your environment, be mindful of your surroundings, and endeavor to be in balance with both.
P.S. - No one noticed that the guy at the beginning of the vid bragging about the area looking like Mars is Tim Commerford, the bass player from Rage Against the Machine.
  • 1 0
 Well said. A bit of common sense and respect go a long way.
  • 14 7
 Riding in Laguna Beach last weekend, the weeds were the worst ive seen in 30 yrs, so much rain this season was great, but the overgrowth is unprecedented...that goes for all of Orange County. Going to require a LOT of funding to clear brush NOW-because if we have a hot dry summer, fire fuel will be so much worse. Hate to be doomsdayer....Trump needs to send some funding to park services-not a wall.
  • 2 0
 Has nothing to do with the federal level. Even the state leaves the locals to deal with most environmental problems. California just budgeted $200 billion for state’s child welfare and juvenile justice systems, in addition to spending over 50% of its budget mainly on health care...which if you actually look is mainly medicaid. A high majority percent of large families these days are low income (low education = bigger families), relying on medicaid for everything, and scams pervase the system from top to bottom, from child care centers to housing. Anything environmental doesn't even make the pie chart. I don't think many realize how high the waste is unless specific numbers are put in front of them.
  • 8 4
 That was fascinating - I'd probably never of seen the real scale of the devastation those fires cause if there hadn't been some mountain biking content too. Also 3:05.. I look forward to seeing someone telling *that* guy e-bikes are cheating..!
  • 8 0
 Woah. Tim Commerford!
  • 7 0
 Yeah he is a MTB enthusiast. There is also a video with him and Tyler Macaul riding together.
  • 5 0
 @petrospit: Yep. I wemember it.
  • 10 3
 Fire is natural in this environment. Ignore that at your own peril.
  • 4 2
 Was not a natural devastation, but will not be the last or worst, sad but true!
  • 7 0
 Just me but lost interest immediately when I noticed it was an e-bike.
  • 9 7
 So much hate on this video. If the people saw how it is now, we are up for another fire because everything is already 6 feet tall again and many of the trails are unridable again because nature takes over anything very quickly. His riding, while most likely illegal, did nothing to the landscape in the long run.
  • 14 3
 If everybody went out and did what he did, it would absolutely affect the landscape. We were fortunate that we got a lot of rains, but banking on that in California is pretty stupid imo.
How about just don't ride illegal areas that just had a wildfire come through to keep it simple?
Excuse one idiot and you'll have to excuse em all.
  • 3 1
 @zaalrottunda: perfect reply!
  • 3 0
  • 4 0
 @zaalrottunda: valid point, but does the same go for the free riders doing big mountain lines and making drastic changes to the landscape? He just rode down the sides of the mountains, he didn't build any features to he left there after the video part.
  • 2 3
 @drummuy04: If that landscape is in the process of recovering from a drastic natural disaster, then ya I would say don't ride it and start carving lines into it.
You can watch his tires go right over new growth.
As far as the free-riders changing the landscape, i don't think those are equatable situations. If someone builds a line in luscious squamish then it probably doesn't matter, vs building one in an area where the wildlife/flora is barely holding on/bouncing back.
  • 6 1
 Wow pinkbike has been posting some shitty article recently
  • 5 3
 So impressive to stay strong and be prepared to fight fires and protect the house. Nice classic free ride style.

Are you related to the Malibu mayor?
  • 7 3
 While badass, protuceting your own homes creates a massive liability for fire fighters who are obligated to save you. Thus, they will be unable to do their jobs and professionally defend your home.
  • 4 1
 Build a house in a wildfire area. So impressive to defend it. Like building in a tide zone and praising the guy for bailing water fast.
  • 4 0
 @JohanG: pretty much anywhere in California that isn't a concrete city is a wildfire area...
  • 1 0
 @JohanG: Ha ha then get the government (tax payers) to bail you out after your home is burned/flooded/blown away/caught in landslide so you can rebuild your home in the same spot. Zero accountability anymore, fools have been elevated into heroes.
  • 3 2
 Impressive. Are there pictures showing the specific trails ridden pre fire?. I've looked general pictures of the area but don't know specifics
  • 5 0
 Most of what was in the video wasn't possible to ride before the fire. Very little actual trail.
  • 3 0
 @scvkurt03: thanks. I looked at pictures of trails in the area (Stokes Canyon etc.) and it was surreal to see what the general terrain looked like before. Glad things are settling down there now for all of you concerned
  • 5 1
 Fire is fucking scary.
  • 1 2
 Ah yes? You`re kidding?
  • 4 5
 The vegetation he's destroying with his motorcycle (e-bike?) is the very stuff that is need to keep the floods from causing the next disaster. Perhaps the video is enough evidence for authorities to press charges. Some laws are meant to be broken but sometimes you have to stop ignorance.
  • 3 0
 so much for the promotion of, "Tread Lightly"
  • 4 1
 Delete this video!
  • 2 2
 For all you guys saying "Oh its only 2 people" or "oh I ride a burned area on my property"
  • 2 0
 Yo Timmy C! “We don’t need the key, we’ll break in!”
  • 4 4
 I hear trumps starting a bike co. It's going to be sick.
  • 2 1
  • 1 1
 Vid starts at 3:20
  • 5 8
 Very cool. The contrast of fun, and devastation and life and death gives it an artistic feel. *sips wine pinky out
  • 4 2
 Dude, you`re up for the most stupid comment in PB. Did you know that? Happy win if you win.
  • 2 6
flag ibishreddin (May 25, 2019 at 15:18) (Below Threshold)
 Shut it Franz
  • 3 1
 @Franzzz: Lol naw he's fine
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