1978 Agoura-Malibu Firestorm
On October 23, 1978, at least eight significant wildfires began in the Los Angeles area. At around noon that day, an arsonist started a fire that eventually burned 25,000 acres from Cornell to Broad Beach in Malibu. The first fire alarm in Agoura was reported at 12:11 PM, and by 2:30 PM, the fire had reached the Pacific Ocean 13 miles south in Malibu. It had been declared a Level 2 (maximum emergency) fire at 1:57 PM.
As the fires spread through the canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains over the next four days, a total of 230 homes were destroyed in Agoura and Malibu, and in the Los Angeles communitity of Mandeville Canyon to the east. 254 other structures were also destroyed. The fire was contained on September 25 and controlled on September 27. 136 engine companies, 28 camp crews, eight bulldozers, six helicopters and six fixed wing air tankers helped fight this fire.
Known at the "Agoura-Malibu Firestorm" and the "Mandeville Canyon Fire", these two major fires were fueled by winds as high as 60 MPH and extremely dry conditions. Residents of Agoura were evacuated to Whizin's Shopping Center in Agoura Hills, where massive flames could be seen engulfing Castro Peak.
Damage caused by the group of fires burning throughout the area was estimated at $71.4 million, according to California officials. Three people were killed and 50 were injured, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
A 15 year old Agoura youth was arrested for starting the fire, and sentenced to be confined in the California Youth Authority until his 21st birthday. Arson investigators determined that he had used a lit cigarette wrapped in a matchbook to set the fire.
- Reed, Mack (October 27, 1993). "Santa Ana Winds Fan Ventura County Blaze: Fire: Arson is suspected as at least two homes are destroyed and 900 acres charred. No injuries reported.". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles). Retrieved September 22, 2011.
- "The Region's Worst Fires". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles). July 2, 1985. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
- Burrell, Molly; Smith, Helen; Sanders, Bob. "October, 1978, The Mandeville Canyon Fire: The hour-by-hour battle of $70 million holocaust". Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Archive. Los Angeles Fire Department. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
- "BLITZ OF FIRES DESTROYS 80 HOMES: 50 Lost in Agoura-Malibu Sweep, 30 in Mandeville; 60-M.P.H. Winds Fan 8 Blazes; Losses in Millions". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles). October 24, 1978. p. 1. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
- "As Smoke Clears, We'll Find Arsonists' Fiddling Caused L.A. to Burn". Daily News of Los Angeles (Los Angeles). October 28, 1993. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
- "Worst of L.A. Fires Blamed on Arsonist". Toledo Blade (Toledo, Ohio). October 25, 1978. Retrieved September 23, 2011.