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Wildfires roar in southern California

house aflame October 21, 1996
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EDT

TUSTIN, Calif. (CNN) -- A wind-driven firestorm swept through southern California Monday, damaging at least 20 homes and forcing evacuations and road closings from San Diego to Big Sur.

A 4,500-acre wildfire was burning out of control late Monday on the outskirts of the Pepperdine University campus in Malibu. At least one home was destroyed, and power was out in Malibu's main business district.

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Fire officials said aircraft were prevented from dropping fire retardant by high winds that pushed smoke ahead of the fire. Wind gusts were clocked at 71 miles an hour in the Malibu area.

Wind gusts also thwarted water-dropping helicopters, turning the water into a fine spray that had little effect on the flames.

Earlier in the day a fire in Orange County, destroyed or damaged at least 20 homes in exclusive neighborhood about 45 miles southeast of Los Angeles. That fire, in Tustin, was under control late Monday.

fire near Pepperdine Univ.

Scott Brown with the Orange County Fire Authority says no cause has been determined yet, but a resident of the neighborhood said the fire started after he heard a loud pop and saw a dead tree fell onto some electrical wires, which in turn ignited a firewood pile and then three homes.

Frantic homeowners were seen bailing water from swimming pools and dousing rooftops with garden hoses as the flames skipped through a neighborhood near Tustin.

fire near Malibu

Hundreds of miles to the north, firefighters battled another big fire along scenic State Highway 1. The Big Sur fire was 85 percent contained Monday, and officials estimated full containment by Tuesday. The cause of the 668-acre blaze, which began Friday about 30 miles south of Monterey, is under investigation.

Smaller brush fires were also burning in Chino, about 35 miles east of Los Angeles, and in San Marcos, just north of San Diego, just west of the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. The California Department of Forestry said some homes are threatened and people are being evacuated.


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