Malibu Corral Fire 25 percent contained; 49 homes lost


The Corral Canyon Fire that sparked early this morning and raged through Malibu’s canyons burning more than 4,500 acres, has destroyed 49 homes, and one mobile home, two outbuildings and eight vehicles, and damaged 27 other homes, said Los Angeles County Fire Department officials at a 5 p.m. press conference at Malibu Bluffs Park.

No lives have been lost in this fire, the second major fire to hit Malibu in a little more than a month, but six firefighters suffered minor injuries, including one with burns to the face. As of 5 p.m., it was 25 percent contained, said Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman at the press conference. The blaze was being held on the west end “at or near Latigo Canyon,” Freeman said. The east end of the fire was still active just west of Puerco Canyon, but Freeman said he had “a good feeling” about the fire in that area due to a decrease in wind speed and a lack of fuel in that area. Freeman said the area where the fire is active is “very steep” and hand crews would not be placed there at night, although crews would remain active through other methods.

“We are going to work our very best, and I fully expect the containment figures will double by tomorrow,” Freeman said.

“With a loss of this magnitude, the numbers of home lost and damaged, it is difficult to find any kind of a silver lining,” Mayor Jeff Jennings said at the press conference. “It’s a major event in our civic life. The city has its work cut out for it in assisting those who want to rebuild and those who want to get their lives back together as soon as possible.

“We certainly dodged a bullet that could have been far, far worse than it is,” said Jennings, while expressing his sympathy to those who lost their homes.

The fire, which reportedly sparked at 3:30 a.m. along a dirt road near Castro Peak, has caused 10,000 people to be evacuated and power outages to more than Southern California Edison 1,300 customers. Charter cable, telephone and Internet service is out in most areas. Charter and Southern California Edison representatives said service cannot be restored until workers are allowed to enter the burnt areas.

Mandatory evacuations are in effect in all areas from Corral Canyon west to Kanan Road. Residents of areas west of Kanan and residents of Point Dume and Paradise Cove are being allowed to return to their homes. Pacific Coast Highway is closed between Malibu Canyon Road and Trancas Canyon, although residents with IDs are being allowed through. Kanan Dume Road was reopened as of 7 p.m.

Evacuation centers have been set up at Agoura High School at 28545 Driver Rd. A second evacuation center has been set up at Channel Islands High School, 1400 Raiders Way, Oxnard, 805.385.2787.

No cause of the fire has been identified, but there were reports of loud young people in the area.

“Everything is being investigated,” Freeman said. “We don’t have a cause at this time. We are very interested in ascertaining the cause, as is everyone.”

Complaints of not enough rangers patrolling the local mountain parks to watch for illegal behavior, including camp fires or other illegal activity, were brought up to which Freeman responded the question of lack of manpower was being seriously addressed.

Although flames destroyed five of the 35 homes in his neighborhood, Councilmember Ken Kearsley stayed behind to fight the fires, reported KNX Radio. Kearsley, who has been through 10 Malibu fires, said he felt safe because of the constant water drops by helicopters.

The fire season this year Chief Freeman said is particularly bad because of no rain and the high winds. “I’m praying for rain,” he said. “I hope you’ll join me in this prayer.”

He added, “This fire definitely is going to have us, policymakers and firefighters, to rethink how to prepare for a fire season. The fire season is no longer September through November. It is now January through December.”

This was the third fire in Malibu this year. Jan. 8, 20 acres burned and five homes were lost in the Malibu Road Fire, and in the Oct. 21 fire, 4,565 acres burned and six homes and two businesses (the Malibu Presbyterian Church and Malibu Mirror & Glass), were destroyed in the Malibu Canyon fire.

Reported by Jonathan Friedman, Karen York and Arnold York.