Fire Ravages Malibu, 4 Homes Destroyed

Fire Ravages Malibu, 4 Homes Destroyed

9 January 2007

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USA — AP) MALIBU, Calif. Four homes anda guest house in Malibuwere destroyed in a wildfire Monday and another four were significantly damaged,authorities said. One resident, who was not identified, was hospitalized forsmoke inhalation.

Residents had only minutes to get out of their homes — or try to get back tothem to rescue animals — when a fast-moving but short-lived wildfire racedthrough an exclusive seaside neighborhood leaving ashes in the footprints ofmansions.

Firefighters worked into Tuesday to douse hot spots left after flames, fueled by SantaAna winds, consumed 20 acres in this celebrity enclave.

“The neighborhood looks like a war zone,” County Fire Chief MichaelFreeman said. “Anything that was down there that could burn, did burn.”

Actress Victoria Principal was among the residents who rushed out to hose downtheir houses after the fire was reported about 5 p.m. Monday.

“She covered her house with water,” said Principal’s publicist, AlanNierob, adding the actress’ home was not damaged.

The cause of the fire was under investigation. Arson investigators were at thescene, although fire officials stopped short of calling it suspicious. The blazewas contained by 8 p.m.

“At this time we’re not ruling anything out because everything needs to beconsidered,” Freeman said.

Late Monday, residents began returning to their homes, as an ocean breezefiltered the smoky air. A charred black Jaguar sat in front of the skeleton of aformer mansion, and burned palm trees littered the street.

Victoria Pinero, co-owner of Little Angels Pet Services, which takes care ofdogs and other animals, was housesitting at one of the homes destroyed in theblaze. She said she wasn’t home at the time the fire erupted, but rushed back tosave the owners’ four dogs.

She said she found two dogs, but “we are still looking for the last twodogs. … We did everything we could,” she said, crying. “For thesepeople, the dogs were basically their children.”

Fire officials didn’t release the names of property owners who lost homes.

The blaze burned near the Malibu Colony, one of the area’s original beachfrontneighborhoods, dating to the 1930s. The densely built stretch of luxury homeshas been a favorite of celebrities over the years.

Famous residents of Malibu include Mel Gibson, Pierce Brosnan, Pamela Anderson,Barbra Streisand, Ted Danson, David Geffen and Courteney Cox-Arquette.

Art dealer Barry Farbenbloom was at the gym when the fire threatened his home,which he bought from actor Bill Murray 2 1/2 years ago.

He said it’s wrong to think everyone who lives in Malibu is a millionaire.

“They are not,” he said. “There are a lot of average Joes justmaking a living.”

Malibu has frequently been the scene of devastating fires. In 1993, hundreds ofhomes were lost and three people were killed. A 1996 fire injured 11 people anddestroyed six homes.

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