It was 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 12, and Hilary Wagner was getting choked up. She and her fiancé, Tyler Train, were driving to Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Beach, Calif., where they’d be scouting the oceanside resort for their upcoming nuptials. Ms. Wagner’s tears might have been happy ones if she and Mr. Train were making the trip willingly rather than under duress. But the pair, both 28, were dealing with the unthinkable: Less than a week ahead of their Nov. 17 wedding, they learned that their original venue, Saddlerock Ranch vineyard in Malibu, Calif., had been severely damaged in the Woolsey Fire, one of several violent infernos currently ravaging parts of the state.
“We couldn’t get any real-time information about venues that had burned down,” Ms. Wagner said. “Last Friday we stayed up all night crying, but we kept holding out hope. We thought maybe Saddlerock was spared.”
Sunday morning brought bad news directly from Saddlerock Ranch. It was closed, and it would stay that way. The revelation left them reeling, but Ms. Wagner and Mr. Train had 125 guests to think about. Half were traveling to California for the event from New York, Florida and their home state of Texas. And so they changed course. “Once we got confirmation that Saddlerock burned down,” Ms. Wagner said, “I started calling and emailing venues. I even put friends and family on it.”
Ms. Wagner, an account director for Ibex Global, and Mr. Train, an associate attorney at Ferguson Case Orr Paterson, are among dozens of couples who’ve had to cram a year’s worth of wedding planning into the span of a week because of an especially devastating California wildfire season. As of Thursday, the Woolsey Fire had been proclaimed the largest on record in Los Angeles County, with the blaze charring more than 97,000 acres and killing at least three people. An estimated 250,000 Angelenos have been evacuated, and the flames are 53 percent contained. (The Camp Fire, the largest and deadliest in the state’s history, has devastated Northern California, with at least 56 people killed as of Thursday and about 200 still missing.)
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