AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.“Firefighters didn’t come to work – we came to war to battle Mother Nature’s fiercest elements in a skirmish that never ends,” said Brian Humphrey, spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department. “We live in a cauldron of fire. Today’s sudden explosion of fires shows us that the wind is king.” By late Sunday, crews had been unable to contain the blazes and officials warned residents to brace at least another day for fires that could threaten thousands more homes. More than 700 firefighters had suited up to tackle the blazes, with up to an additional 350 on the way from across California. Gov.Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office said more than 400 engines responded, with 10 fixed-wing air tankers from the Cal Fire strike team engaged or on standby. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said more than 100 law enforcement personnel responded to support operations. Flames fueled by ferocious Santa Ana winds roared Sunday across Southern California, straining firefighting resources as homes and landmarks burned and brush fires raced toward mansions along the fabled Malibu shoreline and tract homes in Canyon Country. Winds tore with hurricane force through mountain passes, whipping up fires from Santa Barbara to San Diego with blazes in Malibu, Castaic and Agua Dulce. More than 1,000 people were evacuated from their homes along the coast and in the Santa Clarita area, although no deaths or serious injuries were reported. It was the firestorm nightmare officials had warned of for months after the driest winter on record and a summer of sweltering temperatures. Winds of up to 50 mph along the coast and through canyons and valleys – with gusts up to 100mph – fueled the flames and made aerial firefighting even more challenging. Temperatures as high as 90 degrees choked most of Southern California and the National Weather Service said no relief was expected until Tuesday afternoon. “It will be hotter and drier and stronger winds,” Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Mike Brownlie said. “We were staging resources for the possibility of something like this all over the county. “Extreme conditions cause fires like this. There’s nothing you can do about that; you just do what you can do.” At least 1,200 acres had burned in Malibu and nearly 10,000 more in Canyon Country. Meanwhile, more than 2,000 acres had burned in Agua Dulce, where mandatory evacuation orders were in effect. “It’s almost as if a fire-breathing dragon lives in the hills. Every October you wonder if it’s going to come out,” said Malibu resident Ben Marcus, who scanned a glowing horizon to monitor the fire near his home. At least five multimillion-dollar Malibu homes burned in the blaze that quickly spread through the posh ocean enclave, damaging businesses and landmarks. “It’s crazy. When I got here, there were flames everywhere – it was really scary,” said Sammy Duran, who works at a gas station on Pacific Coast Highway. High winds snapped power lines before dawn along Malibu Canyon Road, apparently igniting the blaze that quickly charged through the canyon toward the coast, turning Malibu Presbyterian Church into smoldering ruins. Nearby, the Castle Kashan – a turreted landmark on a bluff with magnificent ocean views – was destroyed. Across Malibu Canyon Road, the Hughes Research Laboratory was seriously damaged. General Motors had used the site to test its hydrogen fuel-cell prototype vehicles. Frenzied wind gusts hurled embers hundreds of yards. Some landed in palm trees that “exploded” in flames and heavily damaged the Malibu Canyon shopping center. “When the palm trees go, there’s a lot of spread of embers,” said engineer Jim Muth from the Manhattan Beach Fire Department, one of dozens of municipal forces called in to help. Parts of Malibu resembled a war-torn ghost town, with closed businesses and burning embers flying across the roadways and igniting hot spots along the highway. Flames damaged a CVS drugstore and several other stores including a Ralphs and First Interstate Bank that lost its clock tower. Lisa Clunis, 17, was among dozens of volunteers who hauled horse trailers to Malibu and helped residents in canyons evacuate their horses and livestock. Sheriff’s deputies summoned the volunteer crew at 6 a.m. Its first task was evacuating 60 horses from Sycamore Farms to a site farther from the fire’s reach. At Pepperdine, about 2,000 students hurried from their dormitories to the cafeteria at the center of campus. Campus minister Thomas Fitpatrick noted that its fire retardant landscaping and concrete buildings provided an added measure of comfort. The school let students return to their dorms by mid-afternoon Sunday but advised them to stay home from class today. First-year students Tucker Roundy and Michael Horton were camped out in one campus shelter where students studied, slept and watched movies on laptops. “This is the first time I’ve ever been evacuated for any reason,” said Horton, 18, from Oklahoma. Many who evacuated homes and nearby campgrounds reported waking up to a red sky as black smoke shrouded the rising sun. Gusts knocked tents all around campgrounds within Malibu State Park, and some said campers panicked. “The sky was scary, it looked awful,” said M. Yvette Del Muro. “It was weird waking up to that, but what scared me most was the wind.” Olen Rush helped transport more than 30 dogs from the San Piper Pet Hotel off Pacific Coast Highway. The dogs were taken to Zuma Beach, where officials from Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care & Control were assisting in transporting pets to safety. “The animals are fine, they seem calm,” Rush said. “But we lost power, and we thought it was best to get out of there.” Others near Bonsall Drive evacuated because gas and power lines had shut down and cell-phone use was limited. “We’ve been through this before, so most people know what to do,” said Connie Schurr, who has lived in Malibu since 1989. “As bad as it is, this still isn’t as bad as in 1993.” That year, hundreds of homes in Southern California burned, including in Malibu as more than a dozen major brush fires flamed out of control over more than 75,000 acres from Point Mugu to the Mexican border. The Santa Ana winds came as no surprise – but their intensity was, said Bill Hoffer, a spokesman for the National Weather Service. “I feel like the outside air’s taken over my smoking habit,” said Hoffer, noting that in his 20 years with the National Weather Service in Southern California he could not recall such strong winds. “This happens every year at this time, but it looks bloody horrible because trees are blowing up. … It can blow mothers-in-law right out of their lawn chairs.” Some evacuated residents made their way north toward Zuma Beach to pick up supplies at HOWS Market and to catch up on all the news. “All I took with me was this cell phone and my purse,” said Ann Ryan, who has lived in Malibu with her husband for more than 30 years. Ryan awoke to a voice projected through a bullhorn about 6 a.m., telling neighbors in Malibu Country Estates across from Pepperdine University to evacuate. The two were still in their pajamas when they headed to the grocery store to buy bread, coffee and some cold cuts so they could eat in their car. “I’ve lived through about four of these fires,” Ryan said. “Sometimes I get tired of it, but it’s just so pretty here.” Staff Writers Kerry Cavanaugh and Brent Hopkins contributed. firstname.lastname@example.org (661) 257-5251160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!