‘It Burns and It Keeps Burning’: Scenes From Southern California’s Wildfires

After his mother fled, Mr. Sezzi, 51, came back to the house and tried to stave off destruction with a garden hose. He could visit a glow behind the ridgeline above him, and as the winds kicked up, the hillsides erupted into quilts of fire. Flames skittered down the hills toward avocado orchards, neighboring roads – and him.

“It was like someone had fired up a burner from a range,” Mr. Sezzi explained. “The fire, the ash, the smoke – everything right toward me. It’s arriving at me, getting in my eyes.”

As the flames started to surround him, Mr. Sezzi decided his struggle to save the home was dropped, and he had to head out. The fire destroyed the home. It burned so scorching that it cracked the fireplace and melted a pan Mr. Sezzi’s mother used to create Christmas cakes into a “glob of molten metallic.”


“Everything is merely gone,” he said on Thursday from his own house in Ventura – safe for now – where he was first warily looking out the window and watching the winds. “It’s actually scary. You merely don’t know. We never think that the fire could reach us, but everybody’s a little bit on edge. Because where perform we evacuate to?”

Trish Valenteen said she had stood in her yard in Ventura and prayed for the fire to pass by the home she shares with her 84-year-old father. These were ready to evacuate on Tuesday night, but ended up staying. She believed they were safe, but on Thursday morning, the Santa Ana winds carried a grimmer omen.

“I’m listening to the wind start up again and realizing that people could be set for more destruction,” Ms. Valenteen said.

In the Bel-Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, Amanda Saviss, 26, woke up Wednesday and started packing around she could from her family’s home on Moraga Travel. Even before they observed firefighters down the hill from her house, the family members knew they had a need to get out.


“It was in the atmosphere everywhere,” Ms. Saviss explained. “Ash, smoke, all of it. We took everything we’re able to, our whole lives – clothes, pictures, jewelry.”

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When they realized they had forgotten to water down some dry bushes close by, a firefighter allowed them to walk again quickly. None of their neighbors got dared to ignore the evacuation orders, she explained. “That would be crazy.”

They spent much of the morning at a cousin’s house, glued to the local news. By later afternoon, the category of five started to search for a pleasant place for them and their pup. They landed at Resort Angeleno, an iconic cylindrical tower just west of the 405 freeway and opposite the burning Bel-Air area.

They tried to find their home from the window of a high building but never managed to spot it. These were assured by information that the flames never reached their street.

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