1978 Agoura-Malibu Firestorm

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On October 23, 1978, at least eight significant wildfires began in the Los Angeles area. At around noon that day, an arsonist[1] 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[2] 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.[3]

Known at the "Agoura-Malibu Firestorm" and the "Mandeville Canyon Fire", these two major fires were fueled by winds as high as 60 MPH[4] 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.[2] Three people were killed and 50 were injured, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.[3]

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.[5] Arson investigators determined that he had used a lit cigarette wrapped in a matchbook to set the fire.[6]

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