Mark Mackey thought he would be safe from the flames at his seaside Malibu home.
The water is just a few metres away and he had been through big bushfires before.
"But there was a point I thought if those eucalyptus go up, dude, we're done," he said, whiskey in hand, reflecting on the events of the afternoon before.
The fire had raced down the tinder dry nearby hills and surrounded his little community in Decker Canyon.
Photo Malibu resident Mark Mackey fought fires to protect homes in his small Decker Canyon community.ABC News: James Glenday
The cliff, the escape route to the beach below, was suddenly alight.
It is now a tangled mess of burned wooden stairs and smouldering shrubs.
"Luckily we jumped over the fence and our neighbour had a boatload of hoses and a lot of water pressure," Mr Mackey said.
"We'd never seen anything like this."
Photo David Andrews joined Mark Mackey in fighting fires in their gated community.ABC News: James Glenday
He and a friend, David Andrews, fought the fire for several hours, dousing falling embers and hosing down rooves.
"The mountains above us were just engulfed in flames," Mr Andrews said.
"There was one point we couldn't breathe anymore … but we ran back inside for a bit.
"All in all we are okay, we saved homes."
Video 1:08 11 dead as wildfires rage across CaliforniaABC News
Two properties in the gated community are now just charred, smoking rubble but all the others seem lush, green and completely untouched.
The entire city of Malibu, home to many Hollywood celebrities, has been evacuated.
The main highway through it is now only filled with police cars and fire trucks.
Photo Two houses in the gated community are now just charred smoking rubble.ABC News: James Glenday
When you drive up into the nearby hills, which are all blackened and burned, it seems fortunate more homes on the luxurious strip of California coastline weren't lost.
Powerlines are down, tangled across many roads and small remnants of flame flicker in the bush nearby.
Firefighters are dousing what they can, so too the remaining residents of Decker Canyon.
They know more dry, windy weather is forecast.
Video 0:32 Firenado appears in the midst of California firegroundABC News
"I'm worried about the next few days", Mr Mackey said.
"We gotta get the embers out."
And does he have any regrets about not evacuating early and staying to fight?
Photo The southern California fire destroyed some homes near Malibu but left the neighbouring property standing.ABC News
Well, yes, sort of.
"I didn't have enough gear. I needed more gear," Mr Mackey said.
"Next time, though, next time."