‘Wel­come to hell’: af­ter mass shoot­ing, fire

While com­mu­nity reels from killings, fire burns homes, forces evac­u­a­tion

The Dallas Morning News - - Nation - Brian Melley, The As­so­ci­ated Press

LOS AN­GE­LES — 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 evac­u­a­tions and shut down part of the main free­way to town.

Flames driven by pow­er­ful winds torched dozens of hill­side homes in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, burn­ing parts of tony Cal­abasas and man­sions in Mal­ibu and forc­ing tens of thou­sands of peo­ple 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 on Wed­nes­day, the spasm of vi­o­lence jolted the city’s sense of se­cu­rity. En­croach­ing flames pre­sented an en­tirely dif­fer­ent haz­ard.

“It’s dev­as­tat­ing. It’s like, ‘Wel­come to hell,’ ” res­i­dent Cyn­thia Ball said about the dual dis­as­ters. “I don’t even know what to say. It’s like we’re all walk­ing around kind of in a trance.”

Ball spoke out­side a teen cen­ter that was serv­ing as a shel­ter for evac­uees. A day ear­lier, it had been where griev­ing fam­ily mem­bers gath­ered and re­ceived the grim news on the fate of loved ones who were killed at the Border­line Bar and Grill, where a Marine com­bat vet­eran went on a shoot­ing ram­page Wed­nes­day be­fore ap­par­ently killing him­self.

On Fri­day, the city was un­der threat from one of three ma­jor wild­fires burn­ing in the state.

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

The en­tire city of Mal­ibu — home to Hol­ly­wood stars — was un­der a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­der and had lost power in places. Flee­ing res­i­dents jammed the 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, evac­uees de­scribed har­row­ing es­capes from flames that picked up un­ex­pect­edly Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

At the Val­lecito mo­bile home park for se­nior cit­i­zens, the fire came so quickly that res­i­dents had lit­tle time to gather med­i­ca­tions and doc­u­ments. With flames bear­ing down, fire­fight­ers car­ried peo­ple from homes and put them in the empty seats of their neigh­bors’ cars, said Carol Napoli, 74.

Napoli left with her friend and the friend’s son and mother, who is in her 90s and had to leave be­hind her oxy­gen tank.

“We drove through flames to get out. They had us in like a car­a­van,” Napoli said. “My girl­friend was driv­ing. She said, ‘I don’t know if I can do this ...’

“Her son said, ‘Mom, you have to. You have to drive through the flames.’ ”

Mel Melcon/los An­ge­les Times

Ke­nan Mart­ing fought a fire from atop the roof of a house in Thou­sand Oaks, Calif., on Fri­day. The home at left was de­stroyed.

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