Winds again fan Southern Californian wildfire that killed 2
MALIBU, Calif. — Strong Santa Ana winds returned to Southern California on Sunday, fanning a huge wildfire that has scorched a string of communities west of Los Angeles.
Huge plumes of smoke were rising again in the fire area, which stretches miles from the northwest corner of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley to the Malibu coast.
Winds Fuel Southern Californian Wildfire
Aircraft swooped low over flaming hills to drop lines of fire retardant as flames marched through brush lands on the edges of cul-de-sac communities.
A one-day lull in the dry, northeasterly winds ended at midmorning and authorities warned that the gusts would continue through Tuesday.
The lull allowed firefighters to gain 10 percent control of the so-called Woolsey fire, which has burned more than 130 square miles (335 sq. kilometers) in western Los Angeles County and southeastern Ventura County since Thursday.
Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby stressed there were numerous hotspots and plenty of fuel that had not yet burned.
The count of destroyed homes remained at 177 but it was expected to increase. Osby noted that a November 1993 wildfire in Malibu destroyed more than 270 homes and said he would not be surprised if the total from the current fire would be higher.
The death toll stood at two. The severely burned bodies were discovered in a long residential driveway on a stretch of Mulholland Highway in Malibu, where most of the surrounding structures had burned. The deaths remained under investigation.
The deaths came as authorities in Northern California announced the death toll from a massive wildfire there has reached 23 people, bringing the statewide total to 25.
Progress was made on the lines of smaller fire to the west in Ventura County, and evacuees from that blaze were being allowed back home. But thousands remained under evacuation orders due to the Woolsey fire.
Residents were stunned by property losses.
Arik Fultz, his family and 52 horses survived, but two houses, two barns, three trailers and three decades of accumulated possessions were incinerated on his 40-acre ranch near Malibu.
"It just doesn't feel real that it's all gone," Fultz said Saturday.
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.
"It was way too big a firestorm," said Lani Netter, whose Malibu home was spared while her neighbor's burned. "We had tremendous, demonic winds is the only way I can put it."
The flames also stretched into the suburb of Thousand Oaks, a city of 130,000 people that just a few days ago saw 12 people killed in a mass shooting at a country music bar.
"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."
At the Fultz ranch, Fultz's mother, 61-year-old Tricia Fultz, said everyone expected the fire to stay well south of their property, but shifting winds forced them to take the horses out to open pastures as quickly as they could.
Three were still in their pens when the adjacent barn caught fire, and Tricia Fultz just had to open the pens, burning her hands and hoping for the best.
She, her husband and six others rode out the fire in a tunnel a short distance up the road as the fire burned the hillsides above and all around them.
"It's so surreal because it's so dark, and when we're in the tunnel you can't see anything," Tricia Fultz said. "There was so much burning and so much black."
The fire hopscotched around the Oak Park neighborhood of 70-year-old Bill Bengston, leaving most houses untouched.
The home for 22 years of Bengston and his wife, Ramona, was the only house on his block that burned. And it burned everything.
"It's all gone," he said softly as he sifted through the remains. "It's all gone."
The hardest to lose were the photos and the mementos handed down through the family — a cigar box that belonged to his great-grandfather; the handcuffs his father carried in World War II.
"We're somewhat devastated," Bengston said. "Still a little bit numb."
AP writers Jonathan J. Cooper in Malibu and Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles contributed to this story.