Wind-whipped fires raze dozens of Southern California homesOctober 22, 1996
Web posted at: 8:00 p.m.
MALIBU, California (CNN) -- Furious Santa Ana winds whipped up firestorms along the Southern California coast Tuesday, burning 20,000 acres, as many as 80 homes, and injuring several people.
Six firefighters were hospitalized Tuesday evening as they fought a fire burning in the beachfront community of Malibu, near Los Angeles. All were taken by helicopter to UCLA Medical Center, and three will likely be transferred to the Grossman Burn Center in Sherman Oaks, a representative for the burn center said.
Meanwhile, thousands of firefighters struggled on several fronts to surround the flames.
Residents flee flames
Only 10 percent of the Malibu blaze had been contained, and several hundred firefighters were on the way from Arizona and New Mexico to join the 2,500 already there. "It was really rough at times, with winds of 40 to 50 miles per hour," said Steve Klein, a firefighter from San Diego who worked overnight.
Property losses so far have been low in Malibu, with only two houses and a mobile home lost. The fire has burned more than 13,000 acres.
The fire apparently began when power lines fell onto a eucalyptus tree Monday night, creating sparks which started the fire, according to Los Angeles fire Captain Steve Sanchez.
Malibu spokeswoman Sarah Maurice said it was reminiscent of the deadly 1993 firestorms that killed three people, blackened 200,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 structures. But Malibu learned its lesson from 1993, and has implemented routine fire drills and other precautions, she said.
Flames consumed dry brush, advancing toward dozens of expensive Malibu houses, as about 1,000 residents packed up a few valuables and their animals and then evacuated. Some stayed behind, using lawn sprinklers and hoses to water down their roofs.
As actress Shirley MacLaine prepared to leave her home, she suggested that the Malibu area code should be changed to 911.
Inspector Rob Graham of the Los Angeles Fire Department said firefighters hoped to get the fire under some control by Tuesday night, assuming that the winds did not once again change the fire's course.
State of emergency
The 5,200-acre Harmony fire continued to burn out of control Tuesday evening near Carlsbad, California. More than 500 firefighters are battling the blaze, which has destroyed more than 70 structures and injured two. Portions of Carlsbad, San Marcos and Encinitas are affected, officials said.
After visiting a neighborhood destroyed by the Harmony blaze, California Gov. Pete Wilson proclaimed a state of emergency for all the counties affected by the fires.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the individuals who have lost their homes in this terrible tragedy," Wilson said in a written statement.
Wilson ordered his Office of Emergency Services to send almost 400 fire engines, six helicopters and six other aircraft to Southern California to help fight the Harmony fire and two other major fires in the county.
Carlsbad resident Jim Boylan watched the fire advance on his property, then beat a quick retreat. "The flames just advanced down the hill, across the street," he said. "And there was no stopping it."
"... I was periodically running to the front door and opening it to check on the advance of the fire, and the last time I went to the front door and opened it I was just greeted by this horrific wall of heat and smoke and whatnot, and I realized at that point it was time to leave," Boylan said.
The Harmony fire has been labeled "suspicious" by investigators. No further details were available.
Firefighters had the Harmony fire about 48 percent contained, with full containment expected by 6 p.m. PDT Tuesday. Full control of the fire is predicted by Wednesday night.
A 9,000-acre fire, dubbed the Otai fire, was burning in a rural area of San Diego County, but no houses were threatened, fire officials said.
A 1,200-acre fire on the Rincon Indian reservation in San Diego County has destroyed six structures.
Correspondents Jennifer Auther and Greg LaMotte contributed to this report.
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