New wildfires spread in Southern California



LOS ANGELES (AP)—Fierce winds sent a wildfire barreling down mountain canyons into Malibu on Tuesday, destroying at least 30 homes and forcing thousands to flee. Nine people were injured, including a director who was badly burned while trying to save a cat.

Other new fires roared across thousands of acres of brittle brushland, just days after firefighters contained wildfires that burned out of control last week in Southern California.

The fire leaped from canyon to canyon in its 12-mile march southwest, producing a string of evacuations.

Tuesday’s largest fire burned 13,000 acres from the wealthy Santa Monica Mountains to the beaches of Malibu. Thousands of residents jammed highways as they fled homes in Woodland Hills, Calabasas, and Malibu, about 20 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. A Coast Guard cutter was stationed offshore in case evacuations were necessary.

Palm trees burst into flames on Malibu’s famed beaches, and firefighters perched on lifeguard towers to get a better look at the approaching blaze.

Topanga Canyon resident Don Burnaby, 16, pleaded with his father from a pay phone.

‘‘Dad, don’t stay. Leave, please,’‘ he said with tears in his eyes.

The blaze in western Los Angeles County created a billowing cloud of reddish-brown smoke that was visible 60 miles east. It forced schools and Pepperdine University to cancel classes and move students to shelters. At least 30 homes were burned, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Michael Freeman said.

A 7,500-acre wind-whipped wildfire caused by an arcing power line chased more than 500 residents from communities in Riverside County, about 80 miles east of Los Angeles. The blaze destroyed several homes and injured three people, Riverside County fire spokeswoman Teresa Merrill said. She had no further details.

The fires erupted as hot, dry Santa Ana desert winds of up to 53 mph returned to Southern California, frustrating efforts to control 13 blazes that torched thousands of acres and hundreds of homes last week, in Altadena and Laguna Beach.

Those fires reached the outskirts of Malibu. Tuesday’s fire was about 15 miles west and was compounded by flare ups in that earlier fire.

About 1,000 firefighters backed by air tankers and water-dropping helicopters battled the Santa Monica Mountains blaze, which threatened multi-million dollar homes.

Residents of Malibu Colony—a private beachfront enclave where homes are owned by such stars as Sting, Bob Newhart, Burgess Meredith and Larry Hagman—were ordered to leave, said Deputy Benita Hinojos.

Chaos reigned at a roadblock on the Pacific Coast Highway as people desperate to get to their homes abandoned their cars, preventing fire equipment from reaching the fire zone. Streams of motorists, with mattresses strapped to car roofs and surfboards jammed into station wagons, lined canyon roads.

Two men were critically injured in Malibu’s Topanga Canyon: British director Duncan Gibbins, 41, burned trying to save a cat in a guest house where he was staying; and Ron Maas, 40, a carpenter, said Larry Weinberg, a spokesman for Sherman Oaks Hospital and Health Center.

Gibbins’ credits include the 1988 Home Box Office movie ‘‘Third-Degree Burn’‘ and the 1990 film ‘‘Eve of Destruction.’‘

Three firefighters, including a Los Angeles County fireman and a California Department of Forestry firefighter, were hospitalized in good condition with minor burns and smoke inhalation, Weinberg said.

Flames swept past two news photographers and a TV cameraman covering a house fire. Acorn Newspapers photographer Doug Olson was burned on both hands, said Kevork Djansezian, a photographer with The Associated Press.

Firefighters also battled a 750-acre wildfire that threatened expensive homes near Poway in northern San Diego County. In San Bernardino County, fire crews fought a 70-acre arson fire in Yucaipa, 60 miles east of Los Angeles. And a 100-acre fire was reported near the city of Riverside.

Winds shoved flames westward and bent trees as helicopters dipped water buckets into a manmade lake at Highland Springs Country Club. Black smoke obscured the San Bernardino Mountains on the northern horizon.

‘‘It’s right there on our golf course,’‘ said Frankie Philips of Highland Springs. ‘‘It’s spectacular, but it’s horrible.’‘

Flames came too fast for one homeowner in Calabasas Highlands on Mulholland Drive. A woman who identified herself as Cynthia said half her house was gutted.

‘‘I got my dog and I got pictures of my family’‘ before the fire struck, she said. Smoke curled from under the eaves of her home.

Thirteen major wildfires erupted last week with the season’s first Santa Ana winds. The fires from Ventura County to the Mexican border charred 175,000 acres and torched at least 830 buildings, including 700 homes, before they were surrounded by firefighters.

President Clinton ordered James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to return to Southern California to assess damage and organize relief efforts. Witt visited the region following last week’s blazes.