Hundreds of CA homes destroyed

At least 750 homes -- including 600 in a mobile home community -- have been destroyed in the Los Angeles area by wind-driven wildfires.

SYLMAR, CA | November 15, 2008


At least 750 homes near Los Angeles have been destroyed in the last three days by raging wildfires that have forced more than 10,000 people to evacuate and are threatening thousands of homes.

The fires are being driven through communities by hurricane-strength wind gusts. California's Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency as firefighters attempt to get the upper hand on a half-dozen different wildfires.

Saturday morning, residents of Oakridge Park mobile home development in this community north of Los Angeles learned that a fire that began about 10 p.m. Friday had destroyed at least 600 homes. Following up on reports that the Sylmar fire may have been arson, the Los Angeles Police Department sealed off the community as a possible crime scene.

In Santa Barbara County, where a fire destroyed more than 150 homes Thursday and Friday, firefighters were reported to have the fire approximately 45% contained Saturday afternoon.

The fast-moving wildfire in Santa Barbara County destroyed at least 150 homes and forced an in-place evacuation of a small Christian liberal arts college where firefighters battled blazes in campus buildings Thursday and Friday.

Early Friday morning, the wind-driven fire had scorched more than 2,000 acres and forced the evacuation of thousands of residents. According to Santa Barbara officials more than 5,400 homes have been threatened and more than a dozen injuries have been reported. Emergency officials said one death may be related.

More than a dozen schools and colleges were closed in the county.

"This is an incredible event," Dave Hovde, a meterologist from KSBY television told listeners Friday morning, "there's so much smoke in the air that it is being picked up by radar." Hovde said the fire was being driven by 40 to 50 mph winds with occasional gusts on the ridge tops as high as 70 mph.

The fire was reported at about 6 PM (PST) in the hills above Montecito, an area of mostly luxury homes -- some owned by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Michael Douglas.

Students and faculty at Westmont College were sheltered overnight in the campus gym as the fire roared through part of the campus, damaging at least four buildings and destroying more than a dozen faculty homes. Westmont has approximately 1,300 students with a faculty and staff of 300.

A Catholic retreat center was also evacuated Thursday night.

More than 200 people are staying at two shelters set up by the American Red Cross and separate shelters have been set up for family pets.

The Sylmar fire burned several homes Friday night and nearby residents were notified of the danger said Melissa Kelly, Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman.

Emergency officials warned that the dry conditions that have been favorable to the wildfires are expected to continue through at least Saturday.


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