Lower Topanga fire burns two homes

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A Lower Topanga fire that burned two homes remains under investigation by Los Angeles County Fire Department officials. The blaze began last Thursday at 5:45 a.m. on South Topanga Canyon Lane.

Capt. Steve Scheidmantle from Fire Station No. 69, who was working overtime at Station #70, which responded to the fire, said a space heater might have been the cause of the fire. Investigators refused to comment.

The fire started at the home of Ginger Kershner, owner of Malibu’s Ginger Snips Salon & Spa. Scheidmantle said Kershner and her two daughters were lucky to get out of the home alive, having no smoke detector. One of the girls was awoken by the crackling sound of the fire.

“It was amazing,” Scheidmantle said. “Thank goodness they got out.”

Scheidmantle said it is important for one to have a working smoke detector in the home.

Kershner did not return phone calls for this story. Her first-floor bedroom was destroyed in the fire, and it was reported that the family would not be able move back into the home.

The fire then moved on to an abandoned home nearby. The former owner, Elroy Payne, was moved out of the home a little less than a year ago as part of the State Parks and Recreation Department’s relocation program. Payne had built the home and lived in it for 25 years, before he was financially compensated and then forced to leave. In the fire, the top two floors of the home were destroyed. Payne said that was his favorite portion of the home.

The fire also spread to a nearby brush area, scorching a quarter of an acre. A brush-response helicopter was sent to the area, dropping a combination of water and foam to put out the brushfire. Several other county and city fire department stations were sent out to help fight the blaze. Scheidmantle said the fire was put out in about an hour. The rest of the overhaul work lasted until about 12:30 p.m.

County fire investigators refused to comment on how long the investigation would take or whether the space heater is the leading suspect of being the cause.