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California fires kill one, shut down Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu

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Written on 7:19 PM by yahoo

(CNN) -- A series of wildfires Sunday in Southern California led to evacuations in some areas, and killed at least one person and injured eight others in San Diego County, according to officials.

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At least 1,200 acres were scorched Sunday by wildfires in Malibu, California.

Four firefighters and four civilians were hurt in the southeastern part of San Diego county, said Roxanne Provaznik, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The blaze, straddling Highway 94, scorched 2,500 acres and destroyed at least one structure, fire officials said.

Provaznik said the firefighters were hurt when flames engulfed their fire engine.

Fires shut down the Malibu section of the Pacific Coast Highway and damaged or destroyed at least 23 buildings, including a church, across 1,200 acres, officials reported.

Warning that the fire in Malibu is "zero percent" contained Sunday, Malibu Mayor Pro Tem Pamela Conley Ulich said, "We are at the mercy of the wind."

Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman's "best projection" is that the fire will last at least two days.

"Thousands of homes are going to be threatened at one time or another based on the movement of the fire," said Freeman.

About 200 homes were evacuated Sunday morning, said Inspector Rick Dominguez of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Winds were clocked at 50 mph and were expected to increase throughout the day, said Freeman.

Hot weather and Santa Ana winds marked the height of traditional wildfire season this weekend, after one of the driest years on record.

Noting that there have not been any reported injuries in Malibu, Freeman urged residents not to return to their homes to retrieve anything.

"We're all scared to death and we have nowhere to go," Susan Nuttall, 51, told The Associated Press as she sat in her black Mercedes in a cul-de-sac after fleeing her condominium near the Pepperdine campus. She was wearing a bathrobe and holding her Chihuahua.

Flames consumed Malibu's landmark Castle Kashan, a fortress-like hilltop home with turrets and arched windows.

Chunks of brick fell from the exterior of the burning building overlooking the coast. The house was not directly in the fire's path, but the powerful winds carried embers to the building, Dominguez said. Castle Kashan is the home of Lilly Lawrence, a Malibu philanthropist.

Daniel Collins, who has been staying at Castle Kashan for a few months, said he woke to thick smoke and "flames licking the windows."

"It was pretty intense," he told CNN. "And we were probably in this house for an hour or so watching this and finally they got us out of there. By the time we left, the castle was engulfed in flames."

Collins said he felt safe because there were many firefighters. Once he was helped from the castle, Collins rushed to see if his neighbors were safe and they were, he said.

Meanwhile, students at Pepperdine's Malibu campus were told to gather at Firestone Field House, while faculty and staff were gathering at Tyler Campus Center, campus police told CNN.

School spokesman Rick Gibson said school authorities went door-to-door clearing out the dorms. However, he said the school does not believe students and faculty are in any danger.

Los Angeles Fire Inspector Sam Padilla said the department was encouraging evacuations at the school because aerial views of the fires, fanned by winds, showed some buildings on the campus were threatened. Power was also knocked out on the campus, he said.

The fire department as of 2 p.m. (5 p.m. ET) listed the following areas as being under mandatory evacuation orders: Montenedo, Malibu Road, Malibu Colony, Pepperdine, Malibu Crest, Serra Retreat and Big Rock.

The residential area Malibu Crest and vacation area Sierra Retreat also were evacuated Sunday, Padilla said.

Evacuation centers were set up at Zuma Beach and authorities had aerial teams serving as lookouts, and helicopters and fire engines to areas as they became threatened, Dominguez said.

Residents of the threatened areas include Dick Van Dyke, Mel Gibson, and Olivia Newton John.

Meanwhile, another wind-driven wildfire has burned hundreds of acres of woodland in the Townsend Peak area of California's Angeles National Forest, in the northern section of Los Angeles County, according to U.S. Forest Service spokesman Stanton Florea.

The fire, which started just before 10 p.m. Saturday (1 a.m. Sunday ET) Saturday, threatens a condor habitat and destroyed an out-building, Florea said.

courtesy of cnn

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