Cal­i­for­nia wild­fires drive 250,000 from their homes

Of­fi­cials: Fire­fight­ers ‘fac­ing con­di­tions they have never seen’

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page - ROBYN BECK/AFP/GETTY IMAGES RINGO H.W. CHIU/AP

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.

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