Posh Calif. Homes Feel The Heat

A firefighter battles a wildfire near Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., Wednesday, July 13, 2005.
A wind-driven brush fire raced up a coastal hillside toward multimillion-dollar homes, alarming residents until firefighters got the best of it.

Firefighters stationed next to back yards sprayed the fire with streams from hoses Wednesday while helicopter pilots bombed it with water. Aided by residents using garden hoses, the firefighters eventually turned the flames away from manicured lawns overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The 100-acre blaze, which was fully contained early Thursday, had threatened as many as 300 homes on this peninsula 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.

"They got pretty close, but we had the helicopter water drops on it and prevented it from getting any homes," county Fire Inspector John Mancha said.

The fire, which broke out shortly before 4:30 p.m., had largely settled down by dusk and residents were allowed back into their homes.

As many as 300 firefighters battled the blaze at its peak; one suffered a hand injury.

There was good news also in Colorado, where residents were allowed to return home Wednesday as officials lifted an evacuation orders and crews steadily extended containment lines around a 12,666-acre wildfire that had forced an estimated 5,000 people to flee.

In Beulah, a town of 1,200 that was reopened to residents, Bob Marino said he was "tickled pink" when he returned to see his home still standing.

"It's like hitting the lotto," said Marino, 59. "I'm going out for a steak dinner."

The fire, in dry, steep terrain about 150 miles south of Denver, was 60 percent contained by Wednesday evening, up from 30 percent the day before. Fire officials expect full containment by Saturday.

In Arizona, flames from an 11,375-acre wildfire near Tucson were within a mile of the Mount Hopkins observatories and some summer homes and lodges, but fire officials are optimistic that the structures could be saved.

The inhabitants of about 30 summer homes and lodges in the canyon were evacuated Wednesday — primarily as a precaution — after the fire jumped containment lines. The fire, started by lightning on July 7, was 20 percent contained Wednesday night.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for