Residents of a mobile home park in southern California are beginning to see for themsleves how a wind-driven wildfire decimated their once neatly kept community.
Nearly 500 homes were destroyed Saturday at the Oakridge Mobile Home Park near Sylmar, Calif. For many of the residents, most retirees, everything was lost.
"It's gone," 82-year-old Ed Hurdle said as he toured the area with fire officials. "The car is gone. The house is gone. It's twisted metal. It's totally charred there. There's no hope at all. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing."
The charred mobile home park has become sort of a "ground zero" in the wind-fueled blazes that erupted late last week.
Firefighters began to make headway Monday morning as winds died down. Roughly 24,000 acres have been scorched in three separate fires, forcing some 50,000 people to evacuate.
Some are finally returning home to discover the fate of all they left behind. For thousands in southern California the nightmare that began last Thursday is still haunting them now.
"I hope when I go home that my house is there, seeing on TV all this disaster," one wildfire victim said. I want to cry."
The fierce Santa Ana winds that fueled a monstrous trio of fires calmed down over the weekend, giving firefighters a bit of a break as they worked to contain the flames.
But many fires that destroyed 34 square miles and 800 homes are still burning. And officials say it would take days to extinguish all of the blazes.
Today, authorities are letting residents in Sylmar back into a mobile home park to inspect their properties. Fires there destroyed nearly 500 homes.
"The minute you went beyond that guard shack you just felt this overwhelming sense of calmness and security and home - and you look at it now and it's dark and dreary and gray," said one California resident. It looks like a war zone."
Although there have been no reports of missing persons, police brought in cadaver dogs to look for any possible victims - and asked residents to check in.
"If you are a resident of this park we want to talk with you," Los Angeles Police Department Dep. Chief Michael Moore said. "We want to know that you're safe, we want to know where you're at."
Good News for Some, Tragedy for Others
Some families learned their homes were fortunate and survived.
"Amongst all this and to know that street was saved is just a miracle," said one fortunate homeowner.
But for others, the fires dealt out what they feared most.
"My birthday's today. I'm 66- years-old today. I was born in 1942 and I've got to start all over again. I don't have nothing left. Nothing," said one wildfire victim.
Firefighters have made huge gains containing the wildfires. But because of the thick smoke and poor air quality across the region, dozens of schools cancelled classes and organizers called off a marathon in Pasadena.