Forced Out by Deadly California Fires, Then Trapped in Traffic

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The two bodies found in a car accounted for the only deaths so far linked to the fires in Southern California, but many people remain missing.

Harris Miller, 83, standing in the parking lot of the upscale Vintage Grocers in Malibu, its doors shuttered, said he had defied the evacuation order and stayed behind. “I survived all this,” he said. “But there’s no electricity. And there’s no plan for electricity for a week, they say.”

Much of the damage from the fire in Malibu is in Point Dume, a section of the coast that has typically been safe because it is on the ocean side of the Pacific Coast Highway. But this time, the fire jumped the road and tore through the canyons, destroying a number of homes. “Some big beautiful homes that have been there forever,” Mr. Miller said.

In a parking lot in Point Dume on Sunday was the charred husk of a 1982 Ford pickup truck, with an American flag draped over it. Frank Kerze, 58, lost his truck, but he saved his home, he said, because he stayed behind and fought the fire with “no water pressure” but “a couple of garden hoses.”

“I made it, dude, because I stayed,” he said, jubilant as he drove around in a golf cart.

Many of his neighbors were not as lucky. A number of homes on Dume Drive burned to the ground, some of them upscale mansions that would be expensive anywhere, others homes that elsewhere would be ordinary but in Malibu had cost millions. The fire was indiscriminate, torching some homes and leaving others, next door or just across the street, intact.

Jed St. Henry, a 62-year-old construction contractor whose home survived, said the fire had been “incomparable to any fire I have lived through on this side of Malibu.”

“I didn’t expect my house to be here,” he said. “The grace of God.”

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