Malibu fire victims return home to pick up the pieces

first_img“Oh, well. It’s amazing when all your stuff’s reduced to … .” Roth trailed off into silence. Compounding the heartbreak of his ruined home, Monday was a beautiful day in Malibu. The skies were blue and clear and the air was cool. Crickets chirped, birds warbled and the ocean stretched out like stained glass, marred only by the yellow firefighting planes that swooped in to scoop out water. Fire crews stowed their hoses and axes and headed back to their stations. Residents returned home. The splendor of the day didn’t square with the numbers. On top of the destruction, fire damaged 35 homes and 11 out-buildings. Over 1,100 personnel and 163 fire engines were still on hand in the morning. Insurance investigators haven’t been able to offer an estimate of monetary damage, but it’s sure to be tens of millions of dollars. A handful of county firefighters, their turnout coats still grubby with soot, paused in what was once someone’s living room in Corral Canyon. The fire had removed the walls, offering them a clear view to the ocean. “Wow,” one said, pointing to an unscathed modern building, all glass and steel at crazy angles. “What a pretty house, huh?” At the canyon roads that led up to the brunt of the damage in Malibu Bowl, melted cars sat, their tires charred and windshields shattered. A fried hulk of a Porsche, not far from a charred Mercedes, served as reminders of the area’s affluence. The minivans and Ford sedans parked near burned-up homes offered the counterpoint that not everyone’s dining off silver spoons. “Everyone thinks we’re millionaires, but we’re hard-working, middle-class people,” said Grace White, an attorney who’s called the canyon home for 12 years and has fled five fires. “I get up every day to go to work.” She and her husband awoke to the sound of sirens early Saturday, grabbed their important documents and cats and fled down the hill. They returned to find their backyard completely blackened, but their house intact. Though frustrated with the fires – and the surrounding development they feel exacerbates the danger – the couple has no plans to move. “We think this is one of the most gorgeous places on Earth,” she said. Across the street on Sea Breeze Drive, Sandy Savas shoveled through a friend’s belongings. The 1970s-era wooden house was gone and the homeowners were off trying to get their lives in order, so Savas pulled on a mask and tried to find things she could save. Film canisters, pages of a book, a teacup and a slightly blackened baking tin made it through. “I suppose you know it’s fire country when you move in,” said Savas, a 15-year resident of Topanga who’s evacuated several times. “But you say, `I could live in this big, congested city with police cars driving past my window. Or I could live out here, where the coyotes howl and the birds sing.’ “I never realized how many disasters I’d live through when I moved in, but now it’s my home.” After his bowl disintegrated, Roth kept searching for a souvenir of his life in Malibu. His vintage Jeep, which he’d owned since he was 16, was gone. He managed to pull out a ceramic tile sign, reading “Villa Roth,” which he had received as a wedding present three years ago. As he was wrapping up, he noticed a rubber dog toy, miraculously unburned next to a blackened mess of undetermined origin. “Oh yeah!” he grinned. “Gotta take care of my dog!” Farther up the hill, Savas painted the numbers back on her friend’s mailbox. It was the only thing left standing. [email protected] 818-713-3738160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! CORRAL CANYON – Larry Roth stood below his blackened kitchen, standing on tiptoe to reach into the rubble of his ruined home. The Navy veteran was in Mexico with his pregnant wife and family when he got word that his neighborhood was on fire. By Saturday night, he learned his house was a total loss. On Monday morning, he returned for the first time to see what was left. His rented, three-story home on Sequit Drive was almost completely gone. He figures embers caught his wooden deck on fire, then spread to his house, adding it to the sad, final statistics: 4,900 acres burned, 53 homes, 37 vehicles and 33 out-buildings destroyed by the time the fire reached containment Monday evening, according to Los Angeles County fire Capt. Greg Cleveland. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREPettersson scores another winner, Canucks beat Kings“I’d love to get that red bowl,” Roth said, straining his arm to the limit to pluck it out of the ashes. “That would be great.” He got a finger around it, then managed to wrestle it down, shaking out a black pile of goop within. He handed it to a friend who’d come along to help him sift through the remains. The bowl crumbled in the handoff, shattering into tiny pieces on its way to the ground. “Aww, you jackass,” Roth said with a wry laugh. “Sorry, man,” his friend said. “It was already all cracked.” last_img

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