Marco Gonzalez didn’t even think about shutting down his restaurant when evacuation orders were given Friday morning in the Agoura Hills community near Los Angeles. As the Woolsey Fire was quickly approaching his neighborhood, he knew he couldn’t leave, there would be people who would need his help.
As the entire community of Agoura Hills was forced to evacuate, Gonzalez stayed behind – after authorities gave him permission. Gonzalez and a handful of his staff at Tavern 101 Grill & Tap House started cooking meals for firefighters and first responders.
“I told my people, I told them I wanted to open just to be here for police, firefighters and first responders,” Gonzalez said. “We weren’t able to get any deliveries into the restaurant, so I’ll go out and buy whatever I can.”
He started preparing meals with a team of four on Friday, and that’s since grown. Now, Gonzalez said he even has customers coming in volunteering to help.
Gonzalez’s sister-in-law, Lyndsay McDougal Cannon, began a Venmo page for donations that raised more than $45,000 in less than three days.
“Marco is a good man, he has a fabulous family and the fact is he is teaching his kids in times of tragedy, you think about others. It’s amazing,” Cannon said.
Money the restaurant doesn’t use will go toward police departments and fire stations and a Woolsey Fire relief fund.
’Send more guys in here’
Gonzalez said he didn’t need to put much thought into his decision to stay.
“I just thought they needed to eat,” Gonzalez said. “[Some firefighters] go for days without having a warm meal.”
“What they’re doing is putting themselves in harm’s way and we have to do whatever we can to help.”
As he spoke, Gonzalez stopped many times to greet or say goodbye to firefighters walking out.
“Thank you so much,” he says. “Appreciate all you do, be safe out there. Send more guys in here.”
As of Monday morning, the fire had spread to 91,000 acres and was 20% contained. Agoura Hills residents have been allowed to return to their homes and businesses.
The Woolsey fire has so far destroyed at least 370 structures, said LA County Fire Chief Daryl Osby on Monday. The cause of the Woolsey fire is still under investigation.
At least 31 people have died in the fires: 29 in the Camp Fire and two in the Woolsey Fire.