Fires be­siege Cal­i­for­nia city reel­ing from mass shoot­ing

Imperial Valley Press - - LOCAL & REGION - BY JONATHAN J. COOPER AND BRIAN MELLEY

THOU­SAND OAKS — A city reel­ing from the tragedy of a mass shoot­ing was un­der a siege of a dif­fer­ent sort Fri­day as rag­ing wild­fires on both sides of the city forced wide­spread evac­u­a­tions and shut down part of the main free­way to town.

Flames driven by pow­er­ful winds torched at least 150 homes in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, burn­ing parts of tony Cal­abasas and man­sions in Mal­ibu and prompt­ing or­ders for 250,000 peo­ple — in­clud­ing some celebri­ties — to flee as the fire marched across the Santa Mon­ica Moun­tains to­ward the sea. The cause of the blazes was not known.

For Thou­sand Oaks, which had been con­sid­ered one of the safest ci­ties in the na­tion be­fore a gun­man mas­sa­cred 12 peo­ple at a coun­try mu­sic bar, the spasm of vi­o­lence jolted the city’s sense of se­cu­rity.

En­croach­ing flames, de­spite the near-con­stant threat of fire in the bonedry state, pre­sented an en­tirely dif­fer­ent haz­ard.

“It’s dev­as­tat­ing. It’s like ‘wel­come to hell,’” res­i­dent Cyn­thia Ball, said about the dual dis­as­ters while she was out­side the teen cen­ter serv­ing as a shel­ter for evac­uees. “I don’t even know what to say. It’s like we’re all walk­ing around kind of in a trance.”

A day ear­lier, the fa­cil­ity had been the lo­ca­tion where griev­ing fam­ily mem­bers had gath­ered and re­ceived the grim news on the fate of loved ones who had not re­turned from the Border­line Bar and Grill, where a Marine com­bat vet­eran went on a shoot­ing ram­page Wed­nes­day be­fore ap­par­ently killing him­self.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion into what drove Ian David Long, 28, to kill was con­tin­u­ing even as the city about 40 miles from Los An­ge­les was un­der threat from one of three ma­jor wild­fires burn­ing in the state.

Three-quar­ters of the city of 130,000 was un­der evac­u­a­tion or­ders — and that likely in­cluded peo­ple af­fected by the shoot­ing, Thou­sand Oaks Mayor Andy Fox said.

“Here we are just a few hours later talk­ing now about an­other cri­sis right here in Thou­sand Oaks,” Fox said, mak­ing the dis­tinc­tion that the shoot­ing vic­tims and their fam­i­lies had ex­pe­ri­enced a per­ma­nent loss.

“Those lives will never be re­cov­ered. Tonight we’re talk­ing about a se­ri­ous fire sit­u­a­tion, but thank­fully we have not lost a sin­gle life. And as dif­fi­cult as it may be, homes can be re­built, prop­erty can be reac­quired.”

Through­out the day, air tankers swooped through the skies, mak­ing low passes to dump wa­ter and flame re­tar­dant as fire­fight­ers tried to pro­tect homes amid gusts top­ping 60 mph.

The winds and smoky con­di­tions made for dif­fi­cult fire­fight­ing and at times grounded fire­fight­ing air­craft.

In ad­di­tion to the large hill­side homes that ig­nited and blazed brightly in the mid­dle of the day, the “West­ern Town” at Para­mount Ranch, a pop­u­lar film­ing lo­ca­tion that in­cluded an old West jail, ho­tel and sa­loon, burned to the ground.

The en­tire city of Mal­ibu — home to Hol­ly­wood stars and en­ter­tain­ment moguls — was un­der a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­der and had lost power in places.

Flee­ing res­i­dents jammed Pa­cific Coast High­way in a pro­ces­sion that crept along as smoke bil­lowed over­head and man­sions on the hills went up in flames.

In Thou­sand Oaks, flames creep­ing down a hill­side were vis­i­ble from the teen cen­ter on Janss Road — named for the fam­ily that orig­i­nally de­vel­oped the hilly ter­rain cov­ered with ma­jes­tic Cal­i­for­nia oaks into what has be­come a large bed­room com­mu­nity.

The Woolsey Fire burns a home near Mal­ibu Lake in Mal­ibu, on Fri­day. AP PHOTO/RINGO H.W. CHIU

AP PHOTO/MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ

A fire­fight­ers is cov­ered in smoke as he bat­tles a wild­fire on Fri­day, in Agoura Hills.

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