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Southland fires: Sylmar mobile homes lost

November 16, 2008 | 10:44 am

At Sylmar's Oakridge Mobile Home Park, designated a crime scene, the L.A. County coroner's office and its dogs were back Sunday looking for victims of the huge Sayre fire.

This headline at latimes.com summed up the loss of scores of affordable homes in a community with listings as high as $28 million: "In Sylmar, an Entire Community Goes Up in Flames: Of Oakridge's 600 mobile homes, 501 were destroyed and at least 40 were badly damaged. Even firefighters were forced to leave as the flames grew so intense, they burned fire hoses into the cement."

Among those who watched their homes burn was Ruth Kamke, 84, who had packed her belongings into her 1973 yellow-and-black Camaro, but, when her electricity failed, couldn't open her garage door.

Outside, a rain of glowing embers ignited the bushes around her mobile home. She grabbed a hose and was spraying down her yard when three firefighters appeared and took her by both arms, leading her across the street to a lawn in front of the community clubhouse.

"As I sat there, I watched each house on my block catch fire in turn," Kamke said.

Desperate to save her car and belongings, she pleaded with firefighters, who eventually broke down the garage door and pulled the vehicle out. One police officer drove the Camaro out of the neighborhood to safety; another put Kamke in his patrol car and took her to the evacuation center. She peered out the rear window and watched the flames consume her home.

The gated community included many double-wide homes with garages. Recent sales included the Sept. 11 closing of a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,120-square-foot home for $69,000, reported at Zillow.com.

Current listings at Realtor.com included a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,296-square-foot residence listed at $79,900 and a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,646-square-foot home at $109,000.

--Lauren Beale

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