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LA Wildfires: Bel-Air Residents Return to Survey Damage After Thousands Forced to Evacuate

”They’ve never gotten this far. We knew it was serious,“ one area resident tells TheWrap

The fires that roared through Southern California Wednesday reached all the way to Julie Coyne’s home in Bel-Air, a posh gated enclave in the foothills of Los Angeles known for its multi-million dollar homes and famous residents.

“My son called from [Washington] D.C. at 5:30 a.m. and said, ‘Wake up and open your blinds,'” Coyne told TheWrap. “The fire was right there, behind my house.”

Coyne, who runs a foundation that promotes literacy and math, said she’d seen plenty of dangerous fires in her life — but nothing like this.

“They’ve never gotten this far,” she said. “We knew it was serious.”

Her home was spared, Coyne explained, but she had not been allowed back in.

“We were one of the lucky ones,” she said. “I have friends in Ventura whose entire street was burnt down.”

The wildfire erupted in Bel-Air on Wednesday, consuming 150 acres and several pricey area homes and prompted mandatory evacuation orders and the temporary closure of the 405 Freeway.

Among those directly affected by the so-called “Skirball” fire was media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose 13-acre estate was partially consumed by the blaze. Other famous homeowners in the evacuated areas include Ashok Amritraj, CEO of Hyde Park Entertainment, Paris Hilton, Lisa Rinna, Leah Michelle and Chelsea Handler, who got in trouble for suggesting President Trump was to blame for the wildfires.

“Just evacuated my house,” Handler tweeted Wednesday. “It’s like Donald Trump is setting the world on fire. Literally and figuratively. Stay safe everyone. Dark times.”

Bel-Air, known for A-listers like Jay-Z and Beyonce, Elon Musk and Jennifer Aniston, has faced wildfire threats before. In 1961, a fire ravaged the neighborhood over a two-day period, destroying hundreds of homes.

But residents say this latest blaze was the worst they’d ever seen.

“My wife’s parents’ house burnt down during the ’61 fire,” said Jeff Von Dwingelo, a swimming pool device contractor. “So, she’s a bit freaked out. It was pretty scary.”

Julie Coyne (left) and Jeff Von Dwingelo (right).

Elizabeth Sheehan told TheWrap she was worried for her grandson, who is physically challenged. She and her daughter-in-law, Ruth Sheehan, said they rushed to a hotel after grabbing some valuables and photographs.

“We have a  little child and it was really tough,” Elizabeth Sheehan told TheWrap. “But thank God everything is OK. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The Skirball Fire was 30 percent contained by Friday morning, according to officials. Streets had reopened as most residents were allowed back into their homes.

“The fire was practically up to my house,” Coyne said. “But the house is still standing.”