Hundreds displaced, as firefighters continue to battle SoCal brush fire
Desert winds that fanned voracious brush fires through three Southern California counties died down today, helping firefighters control separate blazes that cut a $22 million swath of destruction.
Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. declared Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties disaster areas Sunday after the fiery weekend left at least 80 homeowners with only an armful of possessions.
Authorities said both the 17,000-acre Gypsum Canyon blaze in Orange County and the 54,000-acre Dayton Canyon fire in Los Angeles and Ventura counties would be contained by tonight.
‘We’re still holding full containment and should have control by 6 p.m.,’ county fire spokesman John Cummings said.
He said winds, which gusted up to 65 mph Saturday, had moderated to 15 to 30 mph.
‘We’d like it to be zero, but it’s better than what it was,’ he said. ‘We’ll have 300 men on the line and if we can complete our containment line, we’ll be in good shape.’
In Orange County, a fire dispatcher said ‘the winds have died down, but it still is pretty warm and dry.’
He predicted the blaze, 90 percent contained and 60 percent controlled, would be fully controlled by noon.
No deaths were reported, but 150 people, including more than 20 firefighters, were injured, most from smoke inhalation. Carcasses of small animals, some of them household pets and others the jackrabbits that abound in the scenic hillside areas, could be seen everywhere.
‘A lot of birds were falling right out of the sky,’ said Malibu ranch foreman Erich Garland.
At the height of the fires that began early Saturday with an apparent arson blaze in the rocky hills west of the San Fernando Valley and spread quickly through tinder-dry brush, horses jammed narrow canyon routes of escape, searching for a haven from the hot, orange glow from the north.
Residents dumped silver and precious antique lamps into swimming pools, then filled automobiles with valuables before abandoning multimillion dollar oceanview homes to flames licking at doorsteps.
In Orange County, officials said the fire destroyed 16 homes and damaged numerous farm structures about 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Damage was estimated at $16 million.
About 60 miles northwest of that blaze, the season’s feared Santa Ana winds — ‘devil winds’ — had arrived with a vengeance and blowtorched flames over 54,000 acres on a 20-mile rampage to the sea.
At least 20 homes were destroyed in Latigo Canyon, where burned-out automobiles were parked in driveways, the hillsides were denuded and smoldering, and flames still licked at tree stumps.
Forty-two mobile homes were incinerated in picturesque Paradise Cove. Officials placed the loss at $6 million, although they conceded the dollar loss could go much higher.
Investigators said a fire in Dayton Canyon was deliberately set, and one official noted the area had been plagued with arson during the past several months.
‘One month ago,’ said Batallion Chief Donald Grant, ‘there was a flurry of activity for a week and there was a fire every night.’
In Paradise Cove, dazed residents looked over what was left of the mobile home village familiar to fans of television sleuth Jim Rockford, who lived in a rusty trailer in the cove during the ‘Rockford Files’ days.
‘It looks so strange to see that metal like that,’ said Barbara Copeland, surveying the twisted wreckage that was once her mobile home. ‘The refrigerator melted.’
Rock star Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac was among hundreds of residents above Malibu who were forced to flee.
Fleetwood packed a number of paintings in the back of his car and carefully placed two $20,000 Tiffany lamps at the bottom of his swimming pool before abandoning his $4 million Ramirez Canyon home. Firefighters said it was believed that flames bypassed the home.
Chris Chrystal / UPI News / October 11, 1982