When Daniel and Leslie Burns returned to to Dos Vientos at mid-morning in a panic, flames 30 feet high were racing down a hill toward their two-story home, pushed by winds gusting up to 40 mph.
Friends had already evacuated their dog, said Leslie Burns, a teacher at Moorpark High School. They hurriedly packed photographs, important papers and medications and prepared to flee their home.
But then the winds shifted. Erratic, hot winds blew the fire farther south into untouched brush in the hillsides above Newbury Park. "I'm optimistic we're OK now,'' said Daniel Burns.
It was much the same story throughout this enclave of upscale suburban homes built into the hills of northern Newbury Park in 2002. People rushed to stow belongings into vehicles and then breathed a sigh of relief when the winds shifted.
"The closest it got to us was the end of the street,'' said Greg Dawson, 47, who lives on Via Escondido, less than a football field's length from where the wall of flames stopped at Borchard Avenue.
Behind him were blackened hillsides, white smoke rising from still-smoldering spots. Shane Dawson, 10, said he and his classmates were doing Star testing at Sycamore Canyon School when the fire bore down.
"We looked out the window and the whole sky was black,'' Shane said. "Some of the girls started crying."
The school was evacuated. When Shane and his brother Spencer, 12, got home, they watched as a fort they had built in a tree in the brushy hills near their homes went up in flames.
"Oh well,'' Shane said. "Maybe we'll build another one."
As the family and neighbors stood talking in the street, the winds once again shifted and black smoke and ash started pouring back into the neighborhood.
"I thought we were in the clear,'' the elder Dawson said as he began shooing his three children back toward their packed cars. "Guess not."
Scott Shipley, 48, said he was staying. "We stuck it out when the flames were 500 feet away,'' he said. "I don't think there's that much more to burn."
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