"We got a routine where we pack all the valuables or anything that is personal and put that in the car and bring the cars down. And sometimes we'll try to go back up if we can and other than that if the fire department is up there, you are ok. And I alerted my immediate neighbour who's been there for 50 years also and he is up there."
Nearly a dozen wildfires driven by powerful Santa Ana winds spread across Southern California on Sunday, killing one person near San Diego, destroying several homes and a church in celebrity-laden Malibu, and forcing hundreds from their homes.
The Malibu fire was among at least ten blazes that burned more than 35,000 acres (14,000 hectares), stretching from north of Santa Barbara to San Diego, as hot weather and hurricane-strength winds marked the height of the traditional wildfire season.
About 700 fire fighters worked to protect about 200 homes in several upscale communities nestled in the Malibu hills, officials said.
About 1,500 people fled the fires, officials said.
Nancy Hirsch, a Malibu resident, described how she and her family coped with the fire:
"We've got a routine where we pack all the valuables or anything that is personal and put them in the car and bring the cars down," she said.
She said she had alerted her immediate neighbour who had been living there for 50 years.
The blaze, which started in Malibu Canyon, had charred at least 1,200 acres and destroyed a church and several homes, one of them a landmark castle.
No residents or firefighters were injured, Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman said.
The winds carried embers across the Pacific Coast Highway, closing the popular road and setting fire to cars and trees in the parking lot of a shopping centre where a supermarket, drug store and other shops were damaged.
It briefly threatened Pepperdine University.
Meanwhile, four fire fighters and at least ten other people were injured and taken to hospitals on Sunday in connection with the fire near San Diego, said a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry.
Details on the death were not immediately available.
The blaze burned more than 14,000 acres (5,665 hectares) or about 22 square miles (57 square kilometres) - near a highway about 70 miles (115 kilometres) southeast of San Diego, just north of the Mexican border town of Tecate, the forestry department spokesman said.
Some of the injured were hikers, and others may be illegal immigrants, he said.
In northeastern Los Angeles County, a fire burned about 10,000 acres (4,050 hectares), or nearly 16 square miles (41 square kilometres), in just a few hours as about 250 fire fighters tried to get a handle on it.
Ten buildings were destroyed, but it was not clear how many were homes, said county Fire Inspector Ron Haralson.
Between 500 and 800 people fled the area, and three people were injured.