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California Wildfires Continue To Threaten Life And Property


In Southern California, wildfires have forced about 170,000 people to evacuate from Los Angeles and Ventura counties. NPR's Mandalit del Barco has been talking with people who had to flee the fire, and she has this report.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Looking north to Malibu from the Will Rogers State Beach today, you can no longer see the red glow from smoke and the fire you could over the weekend. Jimy Tallal has lived in Malibu for more than 20 years. She's still in shock over the fate of her Spanish-style home with a tile roof.

JIMY TALLAL: We found out Saturday from a few people that didn't evacuate that our house had burned completely to the ground, totally destroyed. We've been just couch-surfing with friends. And so here we are, just trying to figure out where we can end up.

DEL BARCO: This morning, she was at a Catastrophe Response Unit set up on the beach by Farmers Insurance. Tallal, who works at The Malibu Times newspaper, and her husband, who heads the Malibu Film Society, stopped by to give the agents information about the belongings they lost - silverware, photos, their grandparents' china. With only minutes to evacuate, they took what they could.

You got out with your dog.

TALLAL: We did, so that was lucky. At least we saved the dog. We managed to grab a few things, but there wasn't a lot of notice.

DEL BARCO: The so-called Woolsey Fire has consumed thousands of acres. Two people were found dead in their car in Malibu. Some people who ignored the mandatory evacuation now face having no power, dwindling food and supplies. Hot, dry Santa Ana winds are driving the wildfire even more.

Last night, as the sun set, I found a few residents trying to get back to their homes, sneaking in by boat or car.

GREGG BROCK: Our house is, fortunately, fine. We just did a tour through the neighborhood, and it was brutal.

DEL BARCO: Gregg Brock left his home on Point Dume on Friday.

BROCK: I mean, entire streets are just leveled. And there was - at one point, there was a huge diesel truck, and it was molten - just a flow of molten metal behind it, about 10, 12 feet. That fire was so hot. And there'd be four houses gone and one fine, and then four houses gone. And it was bad. The whole hill - everything is gone.

DEL BARCO: Brock is a marriage and family therapist who says his neighborhood is filled with multimillion-dollar homes, not all of them occupied full-time.

BROCK: These are a lot of weekend homes. There's only 13,000 people in Malibu, so - and half of those, I'm sure, aren't residents.

DEL BARCO: A lot of celebrities have houses in Malibu, and some have tweeted they lost their homes. Among them, singers Miley Cyrus and Neil Young.


DEL BARCO: Over the weekend, there were haunting images of animals left to survive on Zuma Beach - an owl sitting solo in the sand and ash, llamas tied to lifeguard posts, the sky around them an eerie red.

ALEXA STILES: I really feel for the people that have their animals on the beach because I could tell you right now, our 19 horses on the beach would not be having a good time. They would be deathly afraid of the water, the waves - all that.

DEL BARCO: Alexa Stiles works with the horses at the Malibu Riders stables. Manager Ashley Lane and her boyfriend were able to save their horses and move them to safety at a nearby community college.

ASHLEY LANE: So we just loaded all the horses. We were, like, running through fire. It was really scary. But we got 19 horses out, so it was good.

DEL BARCO: You were running through fire?

LANE: Yeah, it was really - it was really scary.

DEL BARCO: With the roads closed, some people were forced to let their horses loose. Lane says many of them were burned but have been rescued and treated by veterinarians.

Meanwhile, people who are staying with friends, hotels or shelters say they can't do much but worry until they see what's happened to their homes. They're waiting to hear when the evacuation is lifted to see how much of Malibu is left.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition,, and