Just a month after almost two dozen wildfires ravaged Southern California, a new blaze raced through Malibu Saturday, destroying at least three dozen homes and forcing thousands of residents to flee.
Fifty-mile-per-hour Santa Ana winds fueled flames that scorched more than 4,500 acres, though no serious injuries were reported as of early Saturday afternoon.
"This is a difficult fire to fight, but we're trying to get this blaze contained as quickly as we can," said L.A. County Fire Capt. Mike Brown.
What's being called the Corral fire broke out just before 3:30 a.m. Saturday. Densely packed shrubs and steep inclines made it difficult for firefighters and their engines to access the terrain. Downed power lines and toppled power poles have added to the difficulty.
Despite those limitations, Malibu Mayor Jeff Jennings was optimistic as he spoke with KABC: "Deployment of resources has been really impressive," he said.
Roughly 2,000 firefighters, 50 fire engines and dozens of water-carrying firefighting aircraft were deployed, officials said.
"We're as well-prepared as we can be,'' county Fire Chief Michael Freeman said at a mid-morning news conference. "The pre-deployment of personnel is paying off.''
In the wee hours of Saturday morning, Malibu residents were awakened by smoke and evacuation orders.
"They were shouting through microphones, telling everyone to evacuate," resident Birgit Castleman told KABC as she cradled her white lap dog. "Everyone was running to get in their cars. We had to make sure we didn't get in an accident because it was it was so hectic.
"I'm just so sad, watching the flames over the hill," she added, as she stared at smoke from the open road. "We're just going to wait and see what happens to our house, but it feels good to be nearby."
Linda Thompson was in a similar position -- waiting to hear the fate of her family's Malibu home.
"We have so many memories of my children growing up there," Thompson told KABC.
She said her elderly neighbor, who had been a Malibu resident for 30 years, lost her home.
While most animals had been successfully evacuated, several dogs and rabbits were treated for minor first-degree burns at the Malibu Coast Animal Hospital, Dr. Victor Erenberg told KABC news.
Just a month ago, a fire in Malibu consumed a dozen structures, including the iconic Castle Kashan, which was only days away from being sold for $17 million, according to TMZ.com. Up to 70-mile-per-hour winds helped keep that blaze burning for four days.
While the cause of the current fire in Malibu is unknown, "the fire was not caused by blowing winds on power lines," as was the case with the fire that burned the area in October, according to L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca.
"We're hoping to get this fire contained today or tomorrow," Capt. Brown said.
While Santa Ana winds are erratic and unpredictable, Mayor Jennings is determined to move forward.
"I don't know how many fires I've been through," he said. "It happens almost every year. Some years we have stronger winds, some none at all. We're just going to have to get through it."
High wind warnings will be in effect through the weekend.