Burned-Out California Mobile Home Residents Fear for Future
SYLMAR, Calif. – Hundreds of nails that once held together single-story, pastel-colored mobile homes now litter the gutters lining the curving streets.
Pipes still spurt water, looking for faucets that aren't there anymore. Toolboxes lay unused and unharmed, surrounded by a world of repairs to make.
Ceramic garden animals still smile in front yards, blackened with soot and surrounded by charred shrubs and trees.
And on Sunday, the day after a wildfire tore through and wreaked the devastation, police began going lot to lot with nine cadaver-sniffing dogs to search for any human remains in the Oakridge Mobile Home Park in the Sylmar section of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley.
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The destruction was fast and total because the homes "were like matches, and they caught fire one after another," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Sunday.
There were no reported missing persons and no evidence of any fatalities at the 200-acre gated park, where 484 homes were destroyed out of more than 600, said Deputy Police Chief Michael Moore.
However, many of the residents were elderly and disabled, and the fire moved into the area very quickly — so quickly that firefighters dropped their hoses and left them to melt into the concrete.
That has urban search teams inspecting the properties very closely, said Fire Department Battalion Chief Edward Bushman.
Occupants of more than 20 percent of homes had been accounted for through neighbors' reports to city officials.
Under a freeway overpass just outside the park's gates on Sunday, dozens of residents stood in the still-smoky air, ashes flying around their faces, waiting for more information on their homes.
The crowd broke into loud, whooping applause when Moore announced that there would be help for their rebuilding efforts.
But for 80-year-old Gloria McGurn, time is a factor. She lost her home of nine years to the blaze.
"I don't know how long I'll be around," McGurn said. "And right now, I don't know if I'll come back because I'm thinking, 'What if it happens again next year?"'