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Wildfires Rage Across Southern California; 1 Man Killed

October 15, 1985

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ At least a dozen wildfires raged across Southern California today, spreading flames that charred at least 15,000 acres and sent 2,400 people fleeing from their homes.

The blazes, fanned by hot dry winds blowing out of the mountains, destroyed 10 homes and were blamed for the death from a heart attack of a man who tried to defend his home, authorities say.

One thousand firefighters from Ventura County in the west to San Bernardino County in the east battled the fast-moving blazes.

Three fires burned at least 5,600 acres near Malibu, 40 miles west of downtown Los Angeles, one of them racing down brush-covered hills to the sea and forcing about 400 residents and 2,000 students at Pepperdine University to flee. The students were allowed to return to the campus, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, about four hours later, said Mike Adam, a school spokesman.

Jennifer Burry, a freshman from Omaha, Neb., said, ″I grabbed everything of value, my Cabbage Patch doll, my jewelry and my anthologies.″

″There are a lot of moving vans on the highway,″ said Kathy Brown at her Malibu Realty Co. office. ″You usually see moving vans and horse trailers in the area when there is a fire.″

Flames were fanned by hot, dry Santa Ana winds, heated over the Mojave Desert and pushed through mountain passes into populous areas by a high- pressure ridge over the southwestern states.

National Weather Service meteorologist Peter Wilensky said the winds were dying down ″a little bit″ Monday afternoon, but said advisories were expected to remain in effect throughout the night.

Residents along the Pacific Coast Highway, jammed with traffic from sightseers, cheered helicopters that came in low to drop loads of water on the leaping flames.

Thirty people were being sheltered at an American Red Cross evacuation center, Red Cross spokesman Herman Keyes said.

The possibility of arson was under investigation in Malibu, Los Angeles County fire Capt. Gordon Pearson said.

The 3,500-acre Decker Canyon fire near Malibu burned out of control today. Four homes and a garage were destroyed, Pearson said. Five homes on Pacific Coast Highway were severely damaged, along with a nursery called Cosentino’s, he said.

A fire near Piuma consumed 2,500 acres near Pepperdine destroyed five homes and a nursery building. The blaze prompted about 400 people to flee 150 multimillion-dollar homes, but none of them were destroyed, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy Dave Hogan said. None of the homes burned.

The Piuma fire threatened but did not damage the Hughes Research Laboratory, which contained a $60 million satellite, on Malibu Canyon Road, Pearson said.

Another fire in the area crackled across at least 150 acres.

Two air tankers had to be recalled because of the wind from the fight against a blaze near Mount Baldy, high in the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Bob Swinford said. The 80-acre fire was contained later.

In Ventura County’s Wheeler Canyon, 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles and a few miles from Ojai, five structures and two vehicles were destroyed in a 5,000 acre blaze, said county fire spokeswoman Bobbie Barker.

The area had been charred in July by a fire that scorched 118,000 acres.

At Box Canyon, 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles, 59-year-old Johannis Leembruggen suffered a fatal heart attack while helping firefighters save his home, Peason said. The 600-acre fire burned at least one home, residents said.

″Looks like something out of a war movie,″ said resident Susan Walker as she looked past a hilltop home as three helicopters dropped fire retardant.

Another suspected arson blaze erupted late Monday on a hill in Montecito Heights, four miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, destroying a home, a trailer, four sheds and blackening 20 acres before it was extinguished, said fire Capt. Tim Finn. There were no injuries.

In Tapo Canyon, seven miles to the northwest, at least 1,000 acres were blackened. Several television shows, including ″Little House on the Prairie″ and ″The Thornbirds,″ have been filmed in the area.

A fire covering at least 300 acres broke out in Moorpark, 10 miles east of Tapo Canyon, and another blaze covered 200 acres near Mount Gleason in the Angeles National Forest, 25 miles north of Los Angeles.

Small fires that consumed about 130 acres were contained Monday at Little Mountain in San Bernardino, 60 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, and at La Tuna Canyon in Sunland, 15 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, officials said.

In San Bernardino and Riverside counties, a series of smaller blazes charred at least 60 acres.


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