Malibu in flames

first_imgWind-whipped wildfires are roaring across the exclusive community of Malibu, scorching more than 4,500 acres, destroying nearly dozens of multimillion-dollar homes and forcing 10,000 to 15,000 residents to evacuate. The blazes are the second in less than five weeks to rack the area, still recovering from firestorms that razed more than 1,200 acres and destroyed seven structures and the landmark Malibu Presbyterian Church. More than 1,700 firefighters are battling the fires that broke out about 3:30 a.m., fueled by Santa Ana winds gusting up to 60 mph. One state firefighter was reported slightly injured with facial burns and five other firefighters sustained injuries. Down the street, charred remains of a home could be seen. A compact car in the driveway had been gutted by fire, and the only thing recognizable inside the wreckage of the house was a stove. Officials said this afternoon that power was out in Malibu and expected to be out overnight. Streets were quiet this afternoon, as most residents had evacuated and scores of colorful blue, orange and green homes that had been spared by the fire dotted charred hillsides. A few residents remained and were watering down brush in front of their hillside homes. At the Rising Star Ranch at 3800 Latigo Canyon Road, fire crews chased the fire front as it hopped across the brushy terrain. They used chainsaws and axes to clear brush and make way for large bulldozers whose tracks dug up the warm asphalt. The key Pacific Coast Highway, a lifeline for the community, remains closed between Kanan Dume and Malibu Canyon roads. Kanan Dume, Latigo Canyon and Malibu Canyon roads also are closed. Mandatory evacations are in effect for canyon residents and Yaroslavsky urged coastal evacuees to go north to Channel Island High School in Oxnard while inland and canyon residents are urged to take shelter at Agoura Hills High School. Corral, Ramirez, Latigo, Paradise Cove, Merrit Drive, Point Dume Club have all reportedly been evacuated. The fierce Santa Anas had died down since the early morning hours, but winds continued to quickly shift the flames. Officials had no estimates on containment as of 1 p.m. Cause of the fire also has not yet been determined, but some reports said it may have broken out at a scenic overlook called Malibu Bowl. Some residents said they heard cars heading down Corral Canyon between 2:30 and 3 a.m. with people yelling and laughing. Several residents complained that the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has not restricted access to the Malibu Bowl overlook in times of high fire danger. They said they will appeal to the conservancy to install gates that can be locked to prevent access during high-risk weather conditions. Malibu Mayor Jeff Jennings urged residents to follow evacuation orders and said living in the exclusive area means putting up with fire danger. “Wildfires are going to happen out here,” he said. “It’s the natural situation for this area … and burns a swath until it gets to the ocean.” Jennings said area residents are still trying to recover from last month’s blaze. “Waking up at 4 o’clock in the morning with the smell of smoke in your nose and the fire at the windows is always a shock,” Jennings said. “Any fire that consumes nearly 40 homes is a disaster. It’s great to be able to say that we’ve suffered no loss of lives. It could have been worse than it has been.” Freeman said pre-deployment of fire equipment, including air tankers, is paying off. Helicopters and air tankers were in use as soon as dawn broke, he said. Freeman said fire crews will provide a list of homes that have been destroyed or damaged later today. “We’ll do our best because we do understand that’s the concern of homeowners,” he said. Jennings disputed some residents’ concerns that construction on a bridge in Corral Canyon hampered fire crews. The bridge is being built “to make it a more welcoming habitat for the reintroduction of steelhead trout,” he said, noting that the city ensured other access to the canyon during its construction. “We did everything we needed to do to insure their safety,” he said. Meanwhile, fire crews from across the state are battling the blaze, including Bob Foxworthy, a firefighter from the Nevada, Yuba, Placer unit of CalFire. Foxworthy, who was in Southern California battling last month’s wildfires, said he had been stationed in Camarillo over the Thanksgiving holiday in anticipation of the Santa Ana winds. “They’re both bad (fires),” he said. “This one just didn’t last as long.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREPettersson scores another winner, Canucks beat Kings “This is still a dangerous and dynamic situation and there still are homes being threatened, and until the fire is knocked down we can’t be sure what the next development might be,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said at the scene. Yaroslavsky said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is being continuously briefed on the situation. Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman said the emergency declaration made by the federal government during last month’s fires is still in effect. Firefighters said the blaze broke out near the top of Corral Canyon and most of the homes destroyed have been along Newell Road in the Malibu Bowl area. About five homes in Latigo Canyon also burned. Most of the homes currently being threatened are in the narrow Corral and Latigo canyons. Nearby Pepperdine University is not directly threatened and officials said students are taking shelter on campus. In Latigo Canyon early in the day, a ruptured gas line spewed 15-foot flames like a giant blowtorch along the ground, making the rocks glow like lava.last_img