| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Oct 22 Ten wind-driven wildfires
raged across Southern California on Monday, keeping thousands
of evacuees from returning home for a second day, while
authorities forecast two more days of extreme fire conditions.
At daybreak in the seaside celebrity enclave of Malibu,
flames licked up against the sides of palatial homes and
helicopter reporters estimated at least 20 homes were in
danger. Ten buildings were lost on Sunday, including a landmark
castle and a church.
"It's been very touch-and-go for the last 24 hours. It was
literally right up to the doorsteps yesterday afternoon,"
Malibu resident Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of
DreamWorks Animation, told Reuters.
"I'm in Chicago right now so I don't know the latest, but
it's obviously very, very scary for all of us out there."
To the south in San Diego County, where one person died on
Sunday and 17 were injured, fires multiplied overnight to seven
including one along the Mexican border. All 36,000 residents of
the inland town of Ramona were ordered to evacuate.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of
emergency for seven counties from Santa Barbara down to San
Diego. He was scheduled to visit communities affected by the
fires on Monday.
Fire officials speculate that the Malibu fire might have
been sparked by power lines downed by the wind, while in Orange
County, Fire Chief Chip Prather said a big fire that threatened
the city of Irvine was arson.
The famously fierce Santa Ana winds were forecast to gust
through the mountain passes and canyons at up to 90 mph (145
kph) on Monday, while temperatures were set to reach over 90
degrees F (32 C) during the day.
"It was fairly obvious that Mother Nature was in control,"
said Patrick Hall, a Red Cross volunteer who went out overnight
to watch for possible flare-ups over the mountains from
"I am over 200 pounds (90 kg) and the guy next to me was
more than that and we had trouble standing."
Southern California is in the midst of its driest year on
record after rainfall just a fifth of average levels. Meanwhile
brush was abundant after growth in previous years with more
Total acreage burned was in the tens of thousands with one
fire north of Los Angeles alone reported at 29,000 acres
In Malibu, a city of 13,000 where celebrities flock to
private beachfront homes and horse ranches up in the hills,
1,500 people were evacuated along with horses. The main coastal
highway remained closed to traffic from the north and south.
(Additional reporting by Dana Ford in Malibu and Nichola
Groom in Los Angeles)