Hundreds flee as fire randomly, spare, California houses

VENTURA, California. – For a short time, Bob Pazen thought he was one of the lucky ones, a man that his house had somehow escaped the ferocious wind-driven fires that destroyed at least 150 structures in the area hillside overlooking the picturesque beach of the city.

Pazen, his wife, his son and their dog had escaped, just before the raging flames Monday night, and when he returned Tuesday morning he was happy to see that their house is still standing.

But after leaving the move of the cars that he had left in the night before, Pazen returned later Tuesday to discover the fire had doubled back.

“The house was completely engulfed in flames,” he said.

His story was just one of the many illustrates the unpredictability of the flames which had hop-scotched descent in the direction of the Pacific Ocean on Monday and Tuesday, with devastating effect, destroying houses, seemingly at random, while others are untouched.

Pazen had slept when his son wake him up and said, “Hey, get out of bed and let’s go.”

John Terrones was also asleep when he heard a sound from outside around the same time, his phone began to ring. It was his son calling to warn him of a fire in the forest was on the way to the right to him.

“I went out and looked, and I saw the flames come over the hill,” he said.

He and his wife loaded their five dogs, some money, jewelry and a few other things in their car and fled. From a safe distance, he watched as his neighbor’s house went up in flames, while his was spared.

“I saw it burn, burn, burn,” he said. “It came almost up to our back yard. We have a lot of luck.”

David Rensin was one of the lucky ones.

He’d stepped outside to check on things about an hour after the wind was knock out power in his neighborhood. When he saw the flames lit up the full moon bright red, he decided that it was time to leave.

Rensin, his wife and their cat spent a night in their car at an evacuation center at Ventura beach county fairgrounds. He looked up the hill in his neighborhood, he was pretty sure his house was gone. He was grateful to find it untouched the next day.

Two blocks away from the three-story Hawaiian Village apartment complex was burned to the ground.

John and Linda Keasler had just enough time to grab an envelope with their passports and flee their apartment on the first floor, leaving one of their two cars behind. They returned the next day to discover that the fire that reduced the entire 52-unit apartment complex to a smoldering pile of rubble that had somehow been spared for their other car.

She and her husband lived in Ventura for two years, and they say that they hope to remain in the city of 110,000 people 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles. With its white sandy beaches and funky old city center, it is one of California ‘ s best kept beautiful secrets.

Although disappointed that they didn’t think to grab two boxes of childhood photos of her adult sons as they went to the door, Keasler added, there was nothing else in the few apartment that can’t be replaced.

“Those things we can always come back,” she said. “The truth is that it is just the things, it’s just the things, and thank God no one died.””

Pazen was also philosophical.

“We’re still alive and we are healthy,” he said. “You can always re-create it. It is not a loss of life or whatever.”


Associated Press Writer Michael Balsamo in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

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