Thursday 19 September 2019

Hollywood stars flee killer wildfires as Malibu mansions go up in flames

A man uses a shovel with dirt to try to stop the flames approaching. Picture: Reuters
A man uses a shovel with dirt to try to stop the flames approaching. Picture: Reuters
Lada Gaga fleeing her house as the smoke billows

Nick Allen in Washington

At least two people were killed and Hollywood stars fled as wildfires raged through the celebrity enclave of Malibu yesterday, burning multi-million-dollar mansions and leaving apocalyptic scenes of destruction worthy of a blockbuster film.

Nine people died as a separate blaze in the north of the state - the most destructive fire ever in California - incinerated the town of Paradise, burning 6,700 buildings.

In southern California, near Los Angeles, 200,000 people were evacuated, including Malibu which stretches for 27 miles along the Pacific Ocean.

It is home to 13,000 wealthy residents, including some of Hollywood's biggest names. Charlie Sheen, the actor, launched an appeal to find his father Martin Sheen, who lives in Malibu and could not be contacted. The older Sheen later turned up at a beach evacuation spot.

Addressing his son via a TV camera, Martin Sheen said: "We're fine, we're at Zuma Beach and we're probably going to sleep in the car tonight." He said it was the worst fire he had seen after living in Malibu for half a century.

Lady Gaga was also evacuated and photographs showed smoke swirling around her mansion.

Will Smith posted videos online of the fire approaching his home and said he was evacuating his family. "Our house is there... and the fire is right there," he said. "I don't like it so we are going to go."

The home of Caitlyn Jenner, America's most famous transgender person, reportedly burned down. "I don't know if the house made it or not, it's still up in the air," she said.

Kim Kardashian, the reality television star, and her family were evacuated from nearby Calabasas.

"I heard the flames have hit our property. I just pray the winds are in our favour. I'm just praying everyone is safe," she said.

Cher, who has lived in Malibu since 1972, said the wildfire was coming close to her home, although she was not there. "Friends' houses have burned. I can't bear the thought of there being no Malibu," the singer said.

Flames ripped through the Paramount Ranch in Malibu, destroying a Western town that was used as a filmset for a host of cowboy films and TV shows since the 1920s. The blaze also jumped the Hollywood freeway in places and burned through the canyons out to the Pacific coast.

Those who own, or have owned, homes in Malibu include Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Brad Pitt and Robbie Williams.

There were surreal scenes as Malibu residents fled to beaches with pets, including horses and llamas, which were then tied to lifeguard huts. The giant plume of smoke hovering over Malibu was visible from space.

"This fire is like Armageddon. It's out of control," said Charlie Dresser, a Malibu resident.

California has endured drought conditions for many years. However, Donald Trump blamed mismanagement for the destructive fires and threatened to withhold government funding in future. "Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!" the US president wrote on Twitter.

Other areas evacuated included Thousand Oaks - the scene last week of the latest US mass shooting when a gunman shot and killed 12 people at a bar.

In northern California the wildfire that raged through Paradise, a town of 30,000 people, caused residents to evacuate in panic, with some crashing their cars and fleeing on foot. Some drove through walls of flame as a 'firenado' - a burning whirlwind - loomed behind them.


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