Death toll rises, hun­dreds of homes lost in blazes in north­ern, south­ern parts of state

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jonathan J. Cooper and Andrew Dal­ton

Two peo­ple were found dead and scores of houses from ranch homes to celebri­ties’ man­sions burned in a pair of wild­fires that stretched across more than 100 square

miles of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, au­thor­i­ties said Satur­day.

The two bod­ies were found in Mal­ibu, but Los An­ge­les County sher­iff’s Chief John Bene­dict of­fered no fur­ther de­tails. They were dis­cov­ered in the area of 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 brings to 11 the num­ber of peo­ple killed in the state’s wild­fires in the past few days, with nine found dead in a North­ern Cal­i­for­nia wild­fire.

In North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, where the air thick with smoke

“It’s so sur­real be­cause it’s so dark, and when we’re in the tun­nel you can’t see any­thing. There was so much burn­ing and so much black.” — Tri­cia Fultz

from a fe­ro­cious wild­fire that was still burn­ing homes Satur­day, res­i­dents who stayed be­hind to try to save their prop­erty or who man­aged to get back to their neigh­bor­hoods found cars in­cin­er­ated and homes re­duced to rub­ble.

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.

In South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, those vi­cious con­di­tions on Fri­day night gave way to calm Satur­day, with winds re­duced to breezes.

Fire­fight­ers used the lull to try to rein in the pow­er­ful blaze that had grown to 109 square miles (282 square kilo­me­ters) and get a grasp of how much dam­age it did in its first two days.

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. About 250,000 homes are un­der evac­u­a­tion or­ders across the re­gion.

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.

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 re­mains 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.

All 52 horses sur­vived, af­ter a wild scram­ble to save them.

Fultz’s mother, 61-yearold Tri­cia Fultz, said ev­ery­one ex­pected the fire to stay well south of their prop­erty, but shift­ing winds forced them to take the horses out to open pas­tures as quickly as they could.

Three were still in their pens when the ad­ja­cent barn caught fire, and Tri­cia Fultz just had to open the pens, burn­ing her hands and hop­ing for the best.

She, her hus­band and six oth­ers rode out the fire in a tun­nel a short dis­tance up the road as the fire burned the hill­sides above and all around them.

“It’s so sur­real be­cause it’s so dark, and when

we’re in the tun­nel you can’t see any­thing,” Tri­cia Fultz said. “There was so much burn­ing and so much black.”

Ben Watkins drove through flames try­ing to get back to his home in Los An­ge­les.

He was driv­ing from Santa Bar­bara when fire brought traf­fic to a stop and he de­cided to wait it out on a beach in Mal­ibu, watch­ing as the blaze drew closer.

Fi­nally, he de­cided to make a run for it, hop­ping in his ve­hi­cle and driv­ing home through flames that lapped at the Pa­cific Coast High­way.

“It’s sur­vival mode,” Watkins said Satur­day af­ter mak­ing it home the day be­fore. “You’re think­ing about how you have to get home at all costs.”

The area burn­ing in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia is in se­vere drought, U.S. govern­ment an­a­lysts said. Cal­i­for­nia emerged from a five-year statewide drought last year but has had a very dry 2018, push­ing parts of the state back into drought and leav­ing oth­ers, like the area of the North­ern Cal­i­for­nia fire, ab­nor­mally dry.


Wind-driven flames from a wild­fire race up a slope and cross the road in Mal­ibu, Calif., Fri­day, Nov. 9, 2018. Known as the Woolsey Fire, it has con­sumed tens of thou­sands of acres and de­stroyed mul­ti­ple homes


Smoke from the wildires fills the air in Mal­ibu, Calif., on Fri­day.

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