Wildfire destroys most of Sylmar mobile home park

Listen to story

Download this story 1.0MB

The Sayre Fire in Sylmar destroyed 80 percent of the homes in the Oakridge Mobile Home Park. Some of its residents gathered under a freeway overpass near the parks entrance Sunday. KPCC's Molly Peterson was there.

Craig Goodman: I'm afraid of what I'm going to see. Total devastation.

Molly Peterson: Craig Goodman's only shirt now is a red and blue bowling shirt – appropriate for his job managing the Santa Clarita Lanes. He and his roommate escaped the fire with a computer, some medicine, and photos boxed up after the last evacuation alert.

Goodman: We've got what we've got.

Peterson: Goodman's a native Californian – so, he said, the possibility of a natural disaster had sure crossed his mind.

Goodman: It could, but I didn't think it would. The earthquakes, and fires, it always happens to someone else.

Police officer: 5-4-4. 5-4-4! Is everyone accounted for? 2-43. That one's good? 4-6-0.
Elderly woman: I've seen them, They're OK.
Younger woman: 4-6-0 is OK!

Peterson: A policeman tried to census residents under the overpass a few hundred yards from the entrance to Oakridge. That's as close as they got.

Police and fire officials are limiting access to what they're calling an active investigation scene. But Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Mike Moore said no fatalities have turned up after crews and cadaver dogs searched 30 percent of the park.

Deputy Chief Mike Moore: What we have right now is no evidence of any loss of life. [applause]

Peterson: Fire responders saved 124 of the 600-plus houses here – Moore called them heroes. L.A. fire captains Stephen Ruda and Bill Wick presented residents with a tattered flag pulled from the blackened debris on Sycamore Street.

Captain Bill Wick: When the firefighter gave it back to us, we brought it back to the evacuation center. And we felt that this flag belongs to all of you. As a sign of hope. [applause]

Peterson: Some of Oakridge's older residents may find those hopes limited.

Marylee Ings sold houses for R & B Communities, the owners of Oakridge. She also lived here for 10 years. She lost everything.

Marylee Ings: Right now I'm in an efficiency hotel. I have family but I think I'm a little too shook to deal with grandchildren.

Peterson: Ings scribbled neighbor's cell phones on scraps of paper. One after another, people in the crowd greeted her and each other, squeezing each others arms, patting each other on the shoulder.

Ings: It's a very tight community. It really is. They really look after each other. There's a rec club in here that's very active. We did have. Hi, sweetheart.

Peterson: Estella Sando pulled down her mask and wheezed in air thick with smoke. She told Marylee Ings her house burned to the ground.

Ings: I know, mine too.
Estella Sando: You're right down the street from me.
Ings: We'll just start over.

Peterson: Sando said she was planning to leave anyway – the heat and the wind got to her. Ings tried to boost another neighbor's spirits.

Ings: And I hope you come back into the park. They're going to rebuild it honey, you've got insurance.

Peterson: Behind Ings, smoke kept rising from the Angeles National Forest. Car by car, Oakridge residents headed to Sylmar High School to check in for updates. Fire officials say it'll be days before they'll get to go home.