California wildfires drive 250,000 from their homes
Officials: Firefighters ‘facing conditions they have never seen’
classes were canceled Saturday after a tense Friday evening. When the allclear order was given around 9 a.m., many students drove away from the area, many equipped with face masks.
Despite the evacuation order for Malibu, Hassen Masri, who lives in the Malibu Country Estates neighborhood that abuts the university, stayed in his house Friday night and watched the hills rage with fire around him.
Around midnight, he saw nearly 20 trucks pull onto the Pepperdine University campus once officials learned the students wouldn’t be evacuating.
“It was a hairy experience; it was bad, it was really bad,” Masri said. “When the fire came over the ridge around midnight, I thought I should leave, but I didn’t. Maybe it was crazy that the university didn’t remove the students, but I am thankful for the extra resources that brought. I felt protected by those extra trucks.”
In Paris, President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration providing federal funds for Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles counties but later threatened on Twitter to withhold federal payments to California, claiming its forest management is “so poor.”
“Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests,” he wrote. “Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
Hardest hit was Paradise, a town of 27,000 in the Sierra Nevada foothills, where nine people died, some torched inside their cars as they were attempting to flee the sudden approach of the flames.
On Friday, dozens of burned-out cars and SUVs lined the main road out of Paradise known simply as Skyway, stripped down to their bare metal.
For Cinda Larimer, it was the fourth time in 20 years that she has evacuated her home in Paradise. Three times she has come back to an untouched structure.
Not this time. All she has left is a minivan stuffed with four cats, a turtle and her dog named Buddy.
“We’ve lost it all,” Larimer, 53, said as ash from the burning town drifted onto her shoulders about five miles outside of Paradise. “My mother, she evacuated and only took two outfits. Why? For the same reason: We all thought we’d be going home today.”
Officials ordered the evacuation of the entire city of Malibu, which stretches 21 miles along the coastline and includes the homes of such celebrities as Lady Gaga, Mel Gibson and Cher.
About 20 miles north, in the smokechoked community of Calabasas, local residents and sooty firefighters gathered at the Starbucks inside the Albertsons supermarket in what appeared to be the only open business inside the evacuation area.
There was no outside electricity, only power from a generator. Residents, many wearing masks for protection against the smoke, shared videos taken on their smart phones showing flames engulfing their backyards.
Paul Bancroft said he was not about to lose his house, which took him three years to build.
The fire burned “right up to the fence, started burning in my bushes.” he said. He managed to douse it with a garden hose.
“I’ve built my home and I didn’t want to leave,” Bancroft said.
A firefighter walks by a burning home in Malibu on Friday night. California fire officials said the Woolsey fire has destroyed at least 150 homes and forced residents to evacuate the entire seaside city of Malibu.
A local resident speaks with a firefighter stationed along the Pacific Coast Highway to battle the Woolsey fire, which stretches 21 miles along the coast, in Malibu, Calif., on Friday.