Winds Delay Burning of Vintage Home

Citing the fire-spreading danger of Santa Ana winds, Ventura County firefighters Monday postponed a practice burn at a Victorian-era house near Santa Paula that has been the object of a preservation campaign.

"It's too risky to conduct controlled fire practice when we have high Santa Ana winds," said Mike LaPlant, battalion chief in charge of training with the Ventura County Fire Department.

The practice burn will be rescheduled for sometime within the next two weeks, LaPlant said.

Ojai farmer Tom Hall, who has been on a crusade to save the structure since July, said he is disappointed because he has found no one who can afford to move the house to a new site and renovate it.

"I think I did my best and it's not over until we see a flat piece of ground there," Hall said.

Hall, who does not own the house, launched a campaign to save the structure after he learned that it had been donated to the Fire Department for a practice burn.

Since The Times published an article about the house Oct. 9, about a dozen historical societies and individuals called Hall about saving the structure, including Warner Bros. film studios and a historical society in the San Fernando Valley, Hall said.

But so far, no one has come forward with a commitment.

Located about a quarter-mile east of Santa Paula, the 1,300-square-foot house is a ghost of what it was a century ago.

Its off-white paint is faded and covered with brown dust, and the porch's columns are crooked. The foundation, pulverized by last year's Northridge earthquake, needs to be replaced.

Moreover, the house needs a new site because the owner of the land plans to plant a lemon orchard there.

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