As flames climbed the San Bernardino Mountains heading toward his "beautiful little cottage" in Running Springs, Jeffrey Harper got on a plane.
Uncertain of the status of his first home and its pending sale to a firefighter, the flight attendant said then, "I can't just sit here. Even if they get the fire out, or it goes around, those highways won't be open for a long time.... I need to get away from it because there's nothing I can do."
Harper lucked out. He didn't lose his two-bedroom, 1 1/2-bathroom house.
"From my balcony, you cannot see any evidence of fire at all," he said last week. "The line that the firefighters cleared is actually on my property. They contained the fire down the hill."
And, the sale of his A-frame cabin, which was listed at $189,000, didn't fall out of escrow. It is closing "45 days from the date we signed the contract, the day the Old fire started," Harper said. He was featured in a Nov. 2 Real Estate story about sellers in the fire zones unsure of the sales of their homes.
"Everyone thought that it was going to be very hairy getting insurance," said Lynne B. Wilson, his broker, who has offices in Lake Arrowhead and Beverly Hills. "Because Running Springs, Lake Arrowhead and Twin Peaks were practically untouched, most of the insurance companies that usually write up here are continuing to write policies. Some of them won't write if there is a wood shake roof. They will write on composition or cement roofs."
While the wildfires burned, the cabin's buyer, a Los Angeles city firefighter, was "filling in spots down here in L.A." as other city firefighters worked the front lines.
Buyer Dennis Baker saw evidence of their work when he inspected the property last week. "They used Barricade, a gel substance," Baker said, explaining that the fire retardant "is actually the same product inside of baby diapers. It was glopped on.... The substance is still gelled a little bit on the garage."
He believes his property has sufficient clearance to deter future fires, and he plans additional precautions. "I'm going to be cutting back a lot of trees," Baker said in a cellphone interview from his rig, "and securing the area."