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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Firefighters Battle Malibu Wildfires: UPDATED News Roundup

[Updates below]

(Firefighters battle a huge fire at the Malibu Presbyterian Church on Malibu Canyon Road this morning after embers from a fast moving brush fire caught the steeple, then the attic on fire. The church was destroyed. Photo by Mike Meadows/Special to the Daily News)

At least 1,000 acres have burned, a landmark church, mansions and homes destroyed and the Pepperdine University is endangered. reports that the fire is being driven by strong Santa Ana winds that have reached gusts of up to 50 mph as it destroys everything it touches.

Malibu Presbyterian Church, Castle Kashan, and several homes were completely destroyed or damaged by flames. Aerial views of the fire show a cloud of smoke drifting over the ocean as firefighters continue to fight the blaze.

Closer to Kern County, a wildfire in Castaic has burned at least 500 acres. Dry fields and 30 mph winds are fueling this fire as well. No homes have been burned, and the fire is said to be moving southwest away from the freeway.

About 14 Kern County fire personnel and five engines are heading to Malibu to assist those crews. Eyewitness News was with the team as they prepared to do their part in fighting the Malibu fire. Stay tuned to Channel 29 Eyewitness News at 5pm for the latest updates.

LA Daily news reports that over 200 mandatory evacuation notices have gone out in Puerco and Sweetwater canyons and Malibu Colony. The brushfires were raging in an area north of Pacific Coast Highway and about one mile west of Pepperdine University.

LA County fire Capt. Mike Brown said about 500 personnel in the air and on the ground were battling the blazes, with nearly 1,000 more en route to help battle the fires.

Embers from the fires were igniting trees - and at least one car - as they were pushed by the wind throughout the area.

Officials are also stating that the fire is not contained and projecting that it will continue for several days, threatening thousands more homes.

Firefighters from as far away as Montebello and Long Beach were called in to fight the blaze that had burned about 1,000 acres.

From the NYT:

Thick smoke made it difficult to see where the fire was headed and forced authorities to close sections of the Pacific Coast highway and other roads. The smoke also hampered the movement of emergency equipment into the area.

Helicopters dropping water circled the area looking to find the secondary fires and to stop them before they could spread.

Pepperdine University officials said that students and some faculty and staff members were being sheltered in the buildings that house the basketball arena and cafeteria. Jerry Derloshon, a university spokesman, said in a broadcast interview that the strategy being followed was to shelter people in place rather than try to evacuate on the narrow, crowded roads in the area.

“The best place to be is on campus,” he said.

The Associated Press quoted Amanda Lewis, a student and resident adviser, as saying that the university had lost power but both evacuation areas were relying on generators.

[Update] 10/22/07:

There are at least 12 blazes across seven counties. Fires threaten northern San Diego. The Malibu blaze is only 10% contained.

Unrestrained fires, stoked by gale-force winds, moved into the northern part of San Diego this morning, prompting authorities to evacuate thousands of homes and leading to clogged roads in one of several fast-moving blazes burning across Southern California.

"If you see a fire, please evacuate immediately. Don't wait to be told to leave," San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said at a news conference this morning.

Qualcomm Stadium and the Del Mar Fairgrounds opened as evacuation centers, and officials made more than 30,000 "reverse 911" calls to tell people to evacuate. Schools throughout the county and at UC San Diego were closed. At least a dozen homes were lost to fire.


Malibu --

A brush fire that swept through Malibu, scorching more than 2,200 acres and destroying at least five homes and a church, was about 10 percent contained today, but no injuries were reported, authorities said.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has declared a regional state of emergency because of the seven wildfires burning around the Southland, planned a news briefing at the Malibu Civic Center later this morning.

The Malibu fire was reported about 4:50 a.m. yesterday and may have been sparked by downed power lines, said county fire Inspector Sam Padilla.

Since then, flames have been whipped at times by Santa Ana winds gusting up to 60 mph. About 1,400 firefighters were battling the flames this morning, aided by water-dropping helicopters.

"It's been a long night," Padilla said.

reports that things are being made worse by citizens ignoring the evacuation orders.

As the Southern California wildfires continue to scorch the areas of San Diego, Malibu and Santa Clarita efforts to control the multiple blazes have been made worse by the need to divert efforts from fighting the fires to rescuing residents.

“We've been unable to do any suppression effort because, in most cases, the fire resources are being used ... to do rescues” said Bill Metcalf, a fire chief in San Diego County.

At a news conference San Diego County Sheriff Bill Kolender appealed to residents to heed the evacuation requests that are in place. Echoing the sentiments of Metcalf, Kolender reinforced the belief that residents who fail to evacuate are only perpetuating the city’s destruction.

The San Diego suburbs are now in dire straits at the moment as the Witch Fire continues to advance into the city limits. As more than 70,000 acres have now been charred by the moving inferno officials have held out little hope of containing the destructive force.

You can find more news stories coming out by date and time here.

More from LA Times.

More than 250,000 people are evacuated in San Diego County, where blazes have torched 100,000 acres. Over a dozen fires burn in seven counties.

I will continue updating.