35 homes burned in Malibu brush fire

Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

At least 35 homes have been burned and about 200 more are threatened in Malibu as a wind-driven fire raced through 1,500 acres this morning, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of homes.

The fire, driven by fierce 50-mph winds, engulfed homes along Newell Road in the Malibu Bowl area. The evacuation zone included neighborhoods in Corral and Trancas canyons and Malibu Bowl. An evacuation center has been opened at Agoura High School.

At least 300 firefighters, six water-dropping helicopters and two fixed-wings planes were attacking the fire, which broke out at 3:30 a.m. at Corral Canyon Road and Pacific Coast Highway, fire officials said.

“The winds are all over the place and the fire is moving in every direction,” said Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Sam Padilla.The blaze is being called the Corral fire. The cause has not been determined.

Malibu was hit in October by a brush fire that destroyed or damaged more than a dozen structures.

Dry conditions and a return of Santa Ana winds prompted red flag warnings Friday by the National Weather Service for Los Angeles and six other counties, an indication of added fire risks.

The warnings, which took effect at noon in mountain areas of L.A., Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Ventura and Kern counties, are expected to last until at least 6 p.m. Sunday. Winds of up to 75 mph are expected.

Warnings also were issued for coastal areas -- where gusts of up to 60 mph are expected -- until noon Sunday.

Red flag parking restrictions will be in effect until at least 10 p.m. today for the Hollywood Hills and other fire-prone areas of the city, Los Angeles fire officials said.

“If something sparks up, this does have the potential to get very serious and out of hand,” said Ryan Kittell, a National Weather Service meteorologist. “That’s why we have the red flag warnings -- to alert the fire agencies and the general public that with these winds it doesn’t take much for something to start growing.”

Kittell said a cold storm system moving across Arizona from Utah was keeping temperatures unusually mild for Santa Anas -- in the low 70s during the day -- bringing stronger-than-expected winds and blowing out lingering fog as the humidity dips to the single digits.

Fire agencies scrambled to bring added resources to Southern California amid decreasing humidity and increasing winds.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had a dozen helicopters on standby, including five supplied by the California Army National Guard; 270 fire engines; more than 1,000 personnel; and two incident command teams across the region, said spokesman Daniel Berlant.

Federal resources included 11 air tankers, 18 helicopters, four military C-130s, 170 fire engines, 21 hand crews and four incident management teams, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Berlant said the added personnel and equipment would stay in the area through the weekend.

Winds are expected to die down Sunday but pick up again as a new storm moves into the area Tuesday.

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