South­ern Cal­i­for­nia fire turns deadly

Tri-City Herald (Sunday) - - News - BY JONATHAN J. COOPER AND AN­DREW DAL­TON

Two peo­ple were found dead as a pair of wild­fires stretched from in­land canyons to the Pa­cific in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia on Satur­day, leav­ing peo­ple sift­ing through the re­mains of both man­sions and mod­est homes for any­thing they had left.

The two bod­ies were found se­verely burned in­side a car on a long res­i­den­tial drive­way in Mal­ibu, Los An­ge­les County sher­iff’s Chief John Bene­dict said. The home is on a wind­ing stretch of Mul­hol­land High­way with steep panoramic views, where on Satur­day the road­way was lit­tered with rocks, a few large boul­ders and fallen power lines, some of them still on fire. Most of the sur­round­ing struc­tures were lev­eled.

The deaths bring to 25 the num­ber of peo­ple killed in the state’s wild­fires in the past few days, with 23 found dead in a North­ern Cal­i­for­nia wild­fire.

Fire­fight­ers have saved thou­sands of homes de­spite work­ing in “ex­treme, tough fire con­di­tions that they said they have never seen in their life,” Los An­ge­les County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.

Those con­di­tions on Fri­day night gave way to calm Satur­day, with winds re­duced to breezes. No new growth was re­ported on the larger of the two fires, which stands at 109 square miles, and fire­fight­ers now have the blaze 5 per­cent con­tained.

Progress also came against the smaller fire, prompt­ing Ven­tura County of­fi­cials to al­low peo­ple in a hand­ful of com­mu­ni­ties to re­turn to their homes.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands across the re­gion re­main un­der evac­u­a­tion or­ders, and could stay that way for days as winds pick up again.

Osby said losses to homes were sig­nif­i­cant but did not say how many had burned. Of­fi­cials said ear­lier that 150 houses had been de­stroyed and the num­ber would rise.

Fire burned in fa­mously ritzy coastal spots like Mal­ibu, where Lady Gaga, Kim Kar­dashian West, Guillermo del Toro and Martin Sheen were among those forced out of their homes amid a city­wide evac­u­a­tion or­der.

“It was way too big a firestorm,” said Lani Net­ter, whose Mal­ibu home was spared while her neigh­bor’s burned. “We had tremen­dous, de­monic winds is the only way I can put it.”

The flames also burned in­land through hills and canyons dot­ted with mod­est homes, reached into the corner of the San Fer­nando Val­ley in Los An­ge­les, and stretched into sub­urbs like Thou­sand Oaks, a city of 130,000 peo­ple that just a few days ago saw 12 peo­ple killed in a mass shoot­ing at a coun­try mu­sic bar.

Wild­fire raged on both sides of the city still in mourn­ing, where about three-quar­ters of the pop­u­la­tion are un­der evac­u­a­tion or­ders that of­fi­cials urged them to heed.

“We’ve had a lot of tragedy in our com­mu­nity,” said Ven­tura County Su­per­vi­sor Linda Parks, whose dis­trict in­cludes Thou­sand Oaks. “We don’t want any more. We do not want any more lives lost.”

Noth­ing was left but the horses for Arik Fultz, who spent Satur­day sift­ing through the charred re­mains of his 40-acre ranch near Mal­ibu.

“It just doesn’t feel real that it’s all gone,” Fultz said. “Just yes­ter­day, what, 24 hours ago I was feed­ing horses in the morn­ing.”

Two houses, two barns, three trail­ers and decades of ac­cu­mu­lated pos­ses­sions are gone.

RINGO H.W. CHIU AP

Dina Arias looks at the charred re­mains of a friend’s burned-out home in Mal­ibu, Calif., on Satur­day.

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