Homes de­stroyed as fire burns to­ward Mal­ibu

Marysville Appeal-Democrat - - STATE - Los An­ge­les Times (TNS)

LOS AN­GE­LES – At Zuma Beach, the Pa­cific Ocean was ob­scured by smoke. Horses, dogs and South­ern Cal­i­for­ni­ans dis­placed by rag­ing wild­fires Fri­day sought refuge on the sand. The dress code called for pro­tec­tive face masks, not wet­suits.

In Thou­sand Oaks, many of those still reel­ing from Wed­nes­day’s mass shoot­ing at Border­line Bar and Grill fled their homes with what­ever they could grab on their way to safety.

Crowded shel­ters turned away pan­icky evac­uees for lack of space. Free­ways were closed. Pep­per­dine Univer­sity stu­dents – around 1,200 of them – awoke to texts order­ing them to shel­ter in place.

Peo­ple like Shirley Her­tel turned on tele­vi­sion sets in hor­ror and watched the homes they’d fled catch fire.

“It was so sur­real,” the Thou­sand Oaks res­i­dent said, shaken. “I left think­ing ev­ery­thing would be OK. You don’t think your house will burn down.”

Fire of­fi­cials said that more than 150 homes had been de­stroyed in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, ca­su­al­ties of the Hill and Woolsey fires, blazes that bar­reled into Mal­ibu and torched a de­struc­tive path through Oak Park, Thou­sand Oaks, Bell Canyon and other Ven­tura County com­mu­ni­ties.

By Fri­day night, wild­fire was rac­ing to­ward West Hills, a neigh­bor­hood at the west­ern edge of the San Fer­nando Val­ley. At rush hour, an un­known num­ber of homes were ablaze.

Around a quar­ter of a mil­lion peo­ple were un­der evac­u­a­tion or­ders Fri­day – the en­tire city of Mal­ibu; Cal­abasas, Agoura and Hid­den Hills; the Topanga Canyon area and three-quar­ters of Thou­sand Oaks. More than 40,000 acres had burned. Two thou­sand fire­fight­ers were de­ployed along with more than 600 law en­force­ment per­son­nel.

Fire jumped the 101 Free­way in not one, not two, but three places, said Los An­ge­les County Fire Chief Daryl Osby dur­ing an af­ter­noon news con­fer­ence, as he urged peo­ple to obey evac­u­a­tion or­ders.

At times through­out the

III­day, the dan­ger­ous job of fire­fight­ing was com­pli­cated fur­ther by res­i­dents who re­fused to leave their homes, he said. “I can only imag­ine the im­pact of be­ing asked to leave your home. But we’re do­ing it for your safety.”

Arita Kron­ska slept through alerts that her Westlake Vil­lage neigh­bor­hood had been placed un­der a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­der. The 62-year-old only found out when her daugh­ter called, wor­ried, about 5 a.m.

“I’ve lived here since 1988,” she said as she stood in front of a tem­po­rary shel­ter in Thou­sand Oaks, her dog, Yoda, at her side. “This is the first time I’ve seen a fire like this.”

As she pon­dered what to bring to the shel­ter Fri­day morn­ing, she even­tu­ally de­cided on just two things she could not live with­out: her pass­port and Yoda.

Driv­ing through her neigh­bor­hood in the predawn dark­ness, the streets were eerily quiet.

“No­body was there any­more,” she said. “It was a very strange feel­ing … . No peo­ple. No driv­ing … . Like

Min those movies about the apoca­lypse.”

Kron­ska had sought refuge at the Thou­sand Oaks Teen Cen­ter, where just 30 hours or so ear­lier fam­ily mem­bers had gath­ered to find out whether their loved ones had been mur­dered by a black-clad gun­man.

So many tears shed in such a short time span in the low-slung tan build­ing.

Judy Good­man fled to the cen­ter in the Fri­day morn­ing dark­ness, too. At 1 a.m., she heard a loud crash in the liv­ing room of her Westlake Hills home. The winds were so fierce that a tree had crashed through her roof, send­ing shards of glass fly­ing.

Then came the loud pound­ing at her front door. It was the po­lice, telling her to leave. The fire was com­ing close. She grabbed socks, fam­ily pho­tos and her dog and headed to the teen cen­ter.

“It’s just one thing af­ter an­other,” she said. “I was cry­ing all day yes­ter­day be­cause of the shoot­ing at the Border­line Bar and Grill, and now this hap­pens.”

She was grate­ful for a safe place to rest but was dis­traught when she heard that her refuge was the same place that fam­i­lies of the Border­line vic­tims found out their loved ones were dead.

“I can’t be­lieve it,” she said.

Deb­bie Sneed-bar­nett and Mike Bar­nett live one free­way exit away from Border­line Bar and Grill. At least, they thought they still did when the sun rose Fri­day.

The cou­ple and their three boys – ages 4, 5 and 11 – had spent the night in their mini­van in the park­ing lot of the Woolsey fire evac­u­a­tion cen­ter at Pierce Col­lege. Their two dogs and their cat crammed in along with them.

They’d left their home in Thou­sand Oaks at 3:30 a.m. and grabbed break­fast at Denny’s. It was the fam­ily’s first evac­u­a­tion, and ev­ery­one was fight­ing a cold. Be­fore they fled, Sneed-bar­nett had grabbed her son’s breath­ing ma­chine and her par­ents’ wed­ding pho­tos.

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