US News

Malibu Thanksgiving weekend blaze claims 53 homes

By M&C US News Nov 26, 2007, 20:24 GMT

Malibu Thanksgiving weekend blaze claims 53 homes

A firefighting helicopter drops water on a home in the path of wildfires burning in Malibu, California, USA, 24 November 2007. EPA/PAUL BUCK

Cooler, foggier weather and a perfectly choreographed aerial assault helped firefighters knock down the blaze that destroyed dozens of homes along winding canyon roads, the second major fire here in as many months.

The marine layer settling in from the Pacific Ocean kept temperatures low and moisture levels high Sunday, while 30 aircraft repeatedly dropped fire retardant and water that snuffed out most of the flames.

CNN reports that the fire was over 70 percent contained after burning more than 4,720 acres. Fire officials said they hope to have the blaze under control by Monday.

Residents made their way back Sunday to see if their homes were among the 53 that were burned to the ground. Several homes along Corral Canyon Road, which bore the brunt of the blaze, were reduced to blackened wrecks, while many others were virtually untouched.

Thirty-four other homes were damaged and as many as 14,000 people were evacuated from the blaze, which was whipped up by cooler, yet extremely dry Santa Ana winds.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger surveyed the damage and hugged Jennifer Grossman who returned from a trip to find her home destroyed.

"This is very, very sad," Schwarzenegger said to Grossman. "We're going to help you."

Malibu was still recovering from last month's 4,565-acre Canyon Fire that destroyed six homes, two businesses and a church when the winds began whipping up again.

Hundreds of firefighters and equipment from throughout the state had been positioned in Southern California for most of the week because of the predicted Santa Ana winds.

Investigators said the fire, which broke out along a dirt road off a paved highway, was caused by humans, but they had not determined if it was started intentionally, county fire Inspector Rick Dominguez said.

Sheriff's deputies with bloodhounds were seen headed into the area that residents said is a popular spot for outdoor partying by young people. Several locals were convinced the fire was started by late-night revelers who may have lit a campfire.

"I've been up there and seen howling groups of teenagers drinking," Corral Canyon Road resident Ricardo Means, 57, said of the rugged spot near the far end of the winding road where blackened beer bottles could be seen littering the ground.

Saturday's fire was west of the areas of Malibu that burned in October.

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