Malibu Fires...Rockstar's House Burns forums

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Jan 20, 2007
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MALIBU, California (CNN) -- Firefighters battling a wildfire that's blackening tony homes in the hills of Malibu said Sunday it was 40 percent contained and they hoped for full containment sometime Tuesday.

Anguished residents watch homes burn Saturday in Malibu, California.


Only a month after the Canyon Fire destroyed homes in the coastline community, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Michael Freeman said they had reasons to be optimistic about fighting this new blaze, including decreasing winds and fuel and the number of working firefighters.

Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, whose real name is Michael Balzary, told the Los Angeles Times by text message that his home had "burned to a crisp."

The 4,650-acre fire had burned 51 homes and outbuildings and damaged 27 others by Saturday, sending billows of black smoke over the horizon. Although the number of buildings destroyed by the fire is expected to increase, fire officials expected to have the blaze fully contained by Tuesday, said the Malibu municipal Web Site.

Fueled by predicted dry Santa Ana winds and low humidity, the wildfire began early Saturday and grew quickly forcing thousands of residents from their homes.

Two high schools were set up to handle evacuees, according to The Associated Press, but no one had come to one school and the other only had 20 people.

Freelance photographer Carol Stoddard told AP she had only a few moments to leave her house in the middle of the night as flames approached her home. Her $2 million wooden home and her collection of 12 uninsured cars were gone, she told AP.

Of the 1,700 firefighters manning the fire, a handful received minor injuries, fire officials said. One suffered moderate facial burns, department spokesmen said. Dozens of aircraft were helping battle the blaze.

Sia Hodjatie, who lives near Corral Canyon, said Saturday that his older son had called to inform him he may have lost his home.

"I woke up around 3:45 and I smelled the smoke, and I woke up my wife. I said, 'Ursula, get up, there is a fire.' She says, 'I don't see it.' I said, 'But I smell it.'"

Hodjatie said he and his family fled their house about an hour later. "My older son was saying, he said, 'Dad, if we had left 30 or 40 seconds later, we would have been baked here.'"

Although firefighters have identified where the fire began -- a dirt road in the Corral Canyon area -- its cause remained unknown. Freeman did not rule out arson. Investigators were seen later between Castro Peak Motorway and Corral Canyon.

It's "certainly not as bad as it could have been," said Malibu Mayor Jeff Jennings, who urged residents to "listen to the radio, stay alert, stay vigilant."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reactivated a state of emergency he declared for last month's devastating California wildfires, pledging he would quickly make available resources to affected Californians.

"No time is wasted in providing any needed resources to fight these fires or help those Californians who have been impacted," he said in a statement.

Operations centers run by the Office of Emergency Services in Los Alamitos and Sacramento were prepared to meet requests for assistance from Los Angeles County, the governor said.

Mandatory evacuations remained in effect Sunday for the area bordered by Corral Canyon to the east, Kanan to the west, Mulholland to the north, and Pacific Coast Highway to the south.

The Red Cross set up evacuation shelters at Agoura High School and Channel Islands High School, Red Cross spokesman Nick Samaniego said. Although only a handful of people had showed up by midday Saturday at Agoura, Samaniego said, "It's a good sign, it shows that people have other resources," he said.

Last month's fires charred more than 508,000 acres in several California counties, and forced 1 million people from their homes -- many far to the south in San Diego County.

The cause of so-called Corral Canyon fire is still under investigation. Fire officials believe it began as a result of human activity, but it is still not clear if it was deliberate or accidental.


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