Nearly 50 officers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department lined up alongside Malibu residents at Duke's buffet table to refuel with tacos and iced tea Wednesday afternoon.
The restaurant's iconic Pacific Coast Highway location with sweeping ocean views offered a place to eat and gather with other community members amidst the wildfire risks that have resulted in an almost fully-evacuated city. In it's seven days of activity, the Woolsey fire has burned 97,000 acres, destroyed almost 500 structures, taken two lives and is still threatening more according to Cal Fire.
Duke's manager Kameron Robinson said today's lunch event was the fourth and most well attended day of serving free meals after more social media promotion brought the greatest turnout of residents still left in Malibu.
"Without them we wouldn't have a business" said Robinson about the community's support of Duke's. "We are able to serve people at events like this during this fire tragedy and no one else can really do that."
Most businesses in the area are closed but a few other restaurants have offered similar services, including Tramonto Bistro and D'Amores pizza. Duke's is serving food that would otherwise go to waste in the restaurant's closing which began last Friday.
"We're just trying to pay it forward and thank everyone that comes in, take care of all the first-responders, police, fire, all risking their lives so we can keep this beautiful restaurant in this beautiful town of Malibu," said Robinson.
Longtime resident Donna Lewis stopped by for lunch from her Eastern-Malibu home just across the street.
"That's what makes Malibu so special, we do have places like this that don't treat you like a number or a tourist, they are very kind and giving," said Lewis. "We're really thankful for the firefighter's and police, they're doing an amazing job. I think things could have been a lot worse."
Robinson said Duke's is looking forward to re-opening in a few days but will keep offering meals in the meantime.
"We're going to go as long as we have the products to support it. We haven't been able to receive any deliveries, we're going to try and meet a delivery truck at Topanga where the closure is and try to bring it in," he said.
The Sheriff's Department is continually announcing new evacuation lifts to various areas of Malibu. Road openings and evacuation decisions will determine when the restaurant can permanently open again.