Horrific wildfires continue to strike California, in what is tipped to be the worst blaze on-record. So far, authorities report that 29 people lost their lives and a further 37 were injured. The death toll is accompanied by $1billion (£756million) in damages, from more nearly 6,400 buildings destroyed and other damages. Arid conditions and dry, sweeping winds in the US state have been described as a tinderbox for the fires, which have continued to affect the area. During one of the landmark fires in previous years, the home of talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, 62, was nearly lost to the flames. Had it not been for the work of the fire department it would have been decimated and in an archive episode, the celebrity thanked her heroes.
DeGeneres welcomed a number of California firefighters onto the show with a standing ovation and professed to “love all of you”.
She spoke about the dangers in the state and how it continued to get “scarier and scarier” each year – and added that there were fires “just all the time”.
When asked about the number of blazes they had to tackle, one of them explained that there were as many as “400 a week”, during the November 2019 show.
One of the firefighters revealed that his colleagues had kindly delivered a box of pink donuts to his daughter on her birthday because he was tackling flames elsewhere in the state.
DeGeneres then turned to Eric LeBlanc, who she revealed “actually saved our house last year” – in reference to the Thomas Fire which was ablaze for four months from December 2017.
She said: “You were stationed at our house when the fires were burning in Montecito and left the sweetest note.
“We were not there obviously, we were evacuated… I just wanted everybody to have stuff to drink and… wanted to open up the doors to say ‘Sleep whenever you want, do whatever.’”
In a moment that evoked laughter from her audience, she quizzed: “What did you do? Did you go into the house?”
The $27million (£20million) mansion, which she shares with wife Portia de Rossi, has a gym, a two-bedroom guest house, a basalt pebble infinity pool and a view that overlooks the ocean.
In response to her question, Fire Office Le Blanc explained that he didn’t and quipped: “No, we were looking for the security cameras so…”
He admitted: “We didn’t know it was your house until maybe the third day but when we found out it kind of put a pop in our step, we were like ‘Oh my god!’ you know.”
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Then in a comical reference to DeGeneres’ love to dance on her show, he said: “My Captain was like, look at the fire over there.”
As he spoke, he lifted his left hand to his jaw and with the other hand pointed to the distance, while he shook his head and hips in an amusing way.
In another dance move, he emulated a water sprinkler while he said: “I responded like, ‘Yeah, we should put water on it.’”
The cheeky swipe left the audience, DeGeneres and his fellow firefighters in hysterical laughter.
In a touching note Fire Officer LeBlanc continued: “You have a lovely house by the way.”
DeGeneres replied: “Well and thank you so much for protecting it. There’s so much there, that’s what’s beautiful about Montecito.
“There’s nature everywhere and trees everywhere so it’s the scary part too.”