South­ern Cal­i­for­nia fire turns deadly

The Herald-Sun (Sunday) - - Nation - BY JONATHAN J. COOPER AND ANDREW DAL­TON

Two peo­ple were found dead and scores of houses from the celebrity man­sions of Mal­ibu to the mo­bile homes of se­niors in the sub­urbs 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 a sparsely pop­u­lated stretch of Mul­hol­land High­way in Mal­ibu, but Los An­ge­les County sher­iff’s Chief John Bene­dict of­fered no fur­ther de­tails. It 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.

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 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 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. Some 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.

At Pep­per­dine Univer­sity in Mal­ibu, where flames were vis­i­ble Fri­day, stu­dents were told not to evac­u­ate but to take shel­ter in build­ings. By Satur­day, the flames were beaten back, and stu­dents were al­lowed to roam cam­pus, univer­sity pres­i­dent Andrew K. Ben­ton said in a state­ment.

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 shooting at a coun­try mu­sic bar.

Wild­fire raged on both sides of the city still in mourn­ing, where some 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.”

Res­i­dents couldn’t be­lieve their city, known to few out­side Cal­i­for­nia a week ago, could sud­denly be gripped by two si­mul­ta­ne­ous hor­rors.

“I don’t even know what to say. It’s like we’re all walk­ing around kind of in a trance,” Cyn­thia Ball said out­side a teen cen­ter serv­ing as a shel­ter for evac­uees.

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