Chased by Fire and Still on the Move : Housing: Many victims are shuttling between the homes of friends and relatives as they search for new quarters. Others find refuge in hotels.

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Maggie Barnard’s life was being mapped out like a travel itinerary.

“Let’s see, I was with the Greuterts last night. Tonight I’m going to stay at the beach. Tomorrow I’m going to move into a very nice condo on South Orange Grove for a week. Then I’m going to camp out for a while with Mary Beth Dietzel, one of my friends.”

The 74-year-old widow was standing Saturday on Mesaloa Lane above Pasadena. Behind her were the ruins of the home she built 34 years ago--the hilltop house that burned to the ground Wednesday.

Like thousands of other victims of last week’s firestorm, Barnard was lining up temporary places to stay as she rebuilds her life--and her home.


Most fire victims were finding beds with relatives and friends. Others were staying in posh hotels Saturday while they searched for an apartment to rent. Several had moved into motor homes. Robert Williams was sleeping in a bedroll next to the Foothill Freeway.

Williams, 47, was homeless even before the fire destroyed his “home.” For two years he had lived in a makeshift camp consisting of tarps, plastic pipe, ice chests and propane stoves and lamps in Eaton Canyon. Recently, he said, Andres Huang--the transient accused of setting the Altadena fire--had stayed in his camp.

“He said his father was French and his mother was Vietnamese,” Williams said. “It had to be an accident. He’s no pyromaniac.”

In a way, Williams said, the fire Huang apparently caused by trying to start a campfire was a godsend to him: It was going to help him off the street.

“Some apartment owners in Pasadena say they will rent to fire victims without requiring first and last month’s rent before you move in,” said Williams, who recently landed a job as a computer repairman. “I’m getting a paycheck next Friday. I’m going to get my life back in order.”

A few canyons to the east, Jim Allen and Stevan Young were pitching a tent next to the remains of their home at the top of Pasadena Glen Road. Young, a 35-year-old construction worker, planned to tough it out. Allen was not so sure.


“I’m staying at my parents’ house,” said Allen, 34. “I don’t know if I can ever come back here.”

But the surveyor’s assistant hopes his stay with his parents is short. “I love them, but they have their lifestyle and I have mine. I’ve been on my own since I was 19. I’m going to try to find a house in the mountains to rent.”

Nancy Goldsworthy is looking for the same thing for her husband, two children and a menagerie of pets. Their two-story home at the top of Shaw Ranch Road in Pasadena is now a two-foot pile of ashes.

Goldsworthy took her 22-month-old daughter, Calista Anderson, with her when she went Saturday afternoon to a federal assistance site at Arcadia Community Regional Park to apply for relocation assistance.

A plume of smoke was visible from the park meeting room window as Goldsworthy, 45, an architect, pulled an ID card from her purse to show a disaster worker. A grocery list fell out.

“This is from back when we had a house and needed food,” she joked to Calista. “We’re staying with my parents for now. But we need another house to move into. There’s one for rent in our canyon, but it’s $1,550 a month, and it’s tiny.”


In a residential neighborhood near Eaton Canyon, 80-year-old Tien Ting Chen and his wife, Hsiu, 74, were picking through the ruins of their Brambling Lane home. An Oriental garden, charred by the flames, survived in the back yard next to a fishpond.

The Chens have moved into daughter Meiyu Wang’s home in San Marino. That has forced Wang and her husband, Maw Shin, to uproot and move to a tiny apartment they own in Alhambra.

On Friday, the Chens discovered that their 45 prized koi in the pond had survived the fire. They retrieved the fish, purchased a children’s wading pool for them and put it outside the San Marino house.

Friday night they covered the wading pool with a mesh screen. But on Saturday morning, a neighbor’s cat managed to knock in the side of pool and drain the water. Then it killed 14 of the koi.

A few streets away, handyman Ed Schreiner of Arcadia was sifting through the ruins of the hilltop home of Barbara and Sandy Horn. The Horns have been staying at an Embassy Suites hotel and were out Saturday looking for a place to rent, he said.

“They need a place that will take their two dogs. They don’t want to be separated,” Schreiner said. He said the Horns saved the animals from the fire: “When the fireball came up the hill, all four of them jumped into the swimming pool.”


Apartment owners in Pasadena said they expect an avalanche of inquiries once fire victims take stock of their lives.

“I’m a little surprised that I haven’t gotten a bunch of calls by now,” said Judy Shuffield, manager of the Madison Terrace Apartments in Pasadena. “But our places are unfurnished and we don’t take pets. And that could cause a problem for some people.”

John Brown, an assistant manager at Pasadena’s Doubletree Hotel, said all 30 of the fire victims who checked into his hotel Wednesday night have gone. Rooms rent for $160 there, but fire victims can receive an $89 per night rate for two more days, he said.

Harlan Tripp, a Mesaloa Lane resident whose home of 30 years was spared by the flames, said he and other neighbors who survived the holocaust have opened their doors to those who didn’t.

“You do it because someday the shoe might be on the other foot,” Tripp said.

“And because some darn nice friends are in trouble.”