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Fire victims pick up the pieces

October 14, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
For victims of the fires, the grim task of assessing the damage has begun.The winds were still gusting on Tuesday along Topanga Canyon, north of the 118 Freeway in Twin Lakes.

The area was hit hard by the Porter Ranch Fire. Some residents are suffering a total loss.

"We are the vortex of the valley ... of the wind," said Bob Turpenny, a Twin Lakes resident. "It comes through here, it blasts through here, it gains speed."

A few homes were lost in the Twin Lakes area; however the majority of the homes were left unscathed.

Turpenny has lived in Twin Lakes since 1986. His home was spared. On Tuesday, he walked through his scarred community looking for embers and hotspots.

"It's the luck of the draw. It's almost like a hurricane. It comes in, it picks three homes, and then shoots someplace else. And, luckily, I've been in an area where it shot over me, left or right," said Turpenny.

Fire officials say most of the time, the homes lost are those surrounded by overgrown brush and little defensible space.

"You'll see these shots of these homes sitting on these roads and at the tops of these peaks, with the proper space ... Where the fire blew through and their life, and their home is still standing," said Captain Dennis Cross, Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Often the leveled homes are the ones that aren't fire safe.

"Holes and vents that remained open ... and damaged screens ... all these things that allow embers to get in and eventually cause a home to burn down. Those are all things that we ask the public to do well ahead of the fire," said Captain Cross.

As residents slowly returned to their neighborhoods on Tuesday, so did a flood of questions.

"Moments like this, you scratch your head and you start to wonder, 'Is this really where I want to be?' But, it doesn't matter. Pick a spot. There's a disaster waiting to happen in any part of the country. And, in California, earthquakes, fires ... you can almost set your watch to this," said Turpenny.

 

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