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Blazes Destroy Ranch House, Char Hillside

Fires: Estimated loss totals $100,000 as residence burns near Fillmore; mobile home, pickup destroyed in Moorpark area.


Investigators are trying to determine the cause of a fire that destroyed a ranch house near Fillmore early Sunday. It was one of two weekend blazes.

County fire officials responded to the first blaze, at 725 Riverside Ave. in the Bardsdale area south of Fillmore, about 2 a.m. Sunday.

They had the fire under control 90 minutes later, but by that time the ranch house had collapsed.

No one was home at the time of the fire. Damage to the structure was estimated at $75,000, and lost contents were valued at $25,000.

The investigation was continuing.

A second blaze Sunday burned 68 acres of dry hillside and destroyed a mobile home and pickup truck on Balcom Canyon Road west of Moorpark.

The fire, which started on Balcom Canyon Road property owned by Claude Dean of Camarillo, was reported to Ventura County Fire Department officials at 10:40 a.m. by a motorist, said fire department spokesman Joe Luna.

A total of 150 firefighters--including a 10-engine ground force, two bulldozers and two water-dropping helicopters--battled the blaze, which was pushed along by wind gusts of 10 to 15 mph.

Officials said the fire was caused by overheating brakes on a pickup truck pulling a trailer.

The fire destroyed an unoccupied triple-wide mobile home and an old pickup truck nearby, and continued to burn in a southeasterly direction before heading north, then west.

"These are flashy fuels here," Luna said. "It starts to burn uphill with the high winds helping it along and there's no way to stop it."

Although utility poles had burn damage, they remained intact, and no power lines were lost.

The turning point in the fire came when a line of retardant was dropped on the front edge of the flames by an air tanker, Luna said.

The fire was contained at 2 p.m.

Dean, who owns 160 acres near Balcom Canyon Road, said the fire burned through a small vineyard, destroyed some plastic water containers and nearly burned a travel trailer that he uses for storage.

Dean said the mobile home and truck were not severe losses, although they had some value. His real concern was the well-being of 11 chickens in a coop that was caught in the middle of the inferno.

"I come up here once a day to check on them," Dean said. "You try to make a go of this stuff out here and hope it works."

But the wooden chicken coop showed no sign of damage, despite being surrounded by blackened earth. The smell of fire was everywhere.

Dean's face lit up when he saw some of the birds in an open portion of the coop. "Unbelievable," he said.

He hiked the last 300 feet and found that not only had all 11 chickens survived, but they had laid a total of seven eggs--a couple more than usual, he said. "I guess they did get scared."

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