MALIBU, Calif.With Santa Ana winds returning and hundreds of
homes in ashes, firefighters were struggling to corral a
devastating Southern California wildfire that has ravaged scenic
canyons and celebrity enclaves near the ocean.
Crews taking advantage of a weekend lull in the winds had the
immense Woolsey blaze about 30 percent contained. But at least 435
buildings had burned most of them homes and the hot embers
smoldering there could become the sparks for more devastation, fire
The fire, which stretches from north of Los Angeles to the
Pacific Ocean, was only 30 percent contained although that was
significant progress from only a few days earlier thanks to a
weekend lull in Santa Ana winds.
Fire crews had to stamp out two new blazes on Monday while still
working to corral the hot western and eastern sides of the fire,
which had burned its way through drought-stricken canyonlands in
and around Malibu, burning celebrity houses along with modest
The hot, dry gusty winds were expected to blow through
Wednesday, although not quite as furiously as last week. Winds,
coupled with higher average annual temperatures, tinder-dry brush
and a lack of rain in recent years, make the perfect ingredients
for explosive fire growth around the state, said Chris Anthony, a
division chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire
Ive been doing this job for 31 years and probably in the last
five, maybe seven years, every year seems to get worse, California
Fire Chief Scott Jalbert told The Associated Press.
The fire has burned more than 80 percent of National Parks
Service land in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation
Area, officials said.
Fire officials lifted some evacuation orders Monday in Los
Angeles County while warning Southern California residents to
remain vigilant as strong winds fanned new fires. While some
returned home, others were told to leave. As one major freeway
reopened, another was closed.
The return to normal for some was juxtaposed with the arrival of
chaos for others, illustrating how quickly conditions can turn. At
least 57,000 homes were still considered threatened, state fire
officials said, and more than 200,000 people remained under
Relief and heartache awaited those who were allowed to return
home Monday. Paul Rasmussen, his pregnant wife and 6-year-old
daughter fled their mountainside Malibu home Friday for what they
thought would be the last time.
Paul Rasmussen gasped Monday as he rounded corners on the road
home that revealed the extent of damage with more than a dozen
nearby houses reduced to rubble. But their home survived. His
next-door neighbor, Randy Berkeley, protected his home and the