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Fighting to save his house: 'What a night'

November 16, 2008 | 12:46 pm

Mike Landig, 58, and his brother Chris, 53, both live in the San Antonio Road corridor, where the fire burned most fiercely over night. The area abuts Chino Hills State Park in Yorba Linda and has dozens of upscale homes nestled up against and into steep canyon slopes.

As of 9 a.m. Sunday, officials rebarricaded the area after there were flare-ups and embers continued to swirl around in the air. About 12 hours earlier, Chris Landig, whose home had been saved by firefighters after they covered his backyard in flame retardant film, saw huge flames whip up from embers behind his home again.

He grabbed his garden hose, turned on the water pressure and ran up the hill, spraying water as far as he could to keep the fire back. A firefighter emerged in his backyard with a high-powered hose. Unable to see the deck from the pool because both had been foamed over with retardant, he walked right into the swimming pool. Chris Landig turned around to help, tumbling head over heels on the wet slope and hitting the concrete.

He got up and helped the firefighter out of the pool, and they picked up their hoses and continued to battle the blaze.

"What a night," said Mike Landig.

The Landigs have owned multiple homes in the area since 1974, and Mike Landig used to hike through the hills that now have upscale homes and dirt horse trails bordered by white picket fences.

Saturday night, when embers were exploding nearby, many neighbors tried to spray their homes and yards with garden houses, some were on their roofs.

Firefighters came by and told them to touch their window panes -- they were scalding hot.

The firefighters told them that even though their homes looked intact, the fires had already damaged the inside because the heat had baked the home, permeating glass and appliances and left it vulnerable to combustion.

"The homes are 20 years old, they're all concrete tile roofs, but if you notice, under a concrete tile roof, there are eaves that come down diagonally that support the roof. All that is covered in sheets of plywood, waterproof tar paper tacked down, and concrete shingles nailed down to that," said Mike Landig.

"What happens is the embers go up under the concrete fireproof shingles, and all the attics have vents in them, and superheated air and superheated embers flow in through the vents. They cause that really dry wood there in the attics to combust. The attic ignites underneath the roof and once the attic ignites, the house is a loss. And that's what happened to these houses," he said.

Landig lives on Ridge Park Drive, off San Antonio Road in the Yorba Linda area, and said that the barn below him as well as a home at the end of the road were totally lost.

"They just spent $500,000 remodeling the whole thing, and it's gone," Landig said.

Later today, he planned to talk with a man who lives in a home below him, to warn him about his palm trees and that he needs to trim back his palm fronds more than once a year. Landig said he'd pay to have them done himself if the neighbor didn't comply.

--Tami Abdollah