Rob Lowe and the Montecito fires

Rob Lowe photo: WireImage

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Actor Rob Lowe is one of Oprah's neighbors, and he's calling into The Oprah Show from his home office. Rob says he was watching a football game with his son when he heard about the fire. "My wife called right at 5:45 and said, 'Montecito's on fire. Get out.' I thought she was kidding because there was no indication that there would be any problem whatsoever," he says. "We got in the car, pulled out of the driveway, and the entire mountain behind us was flames—200 feet high, shooting into the air. Where I was, there were no sirens, not anything, no warning. It was just on."

Rob says he drove straight to a friend's house to make sure the family was safe. Though his friends were able to evacuate, their next-door neighbors were trapped behind a gate. "Their daughter was lost on the property, so another gentleman and I pried the gates open," Rob says. "He went up into the property to look for her; I went to comfort [the family]. Embers were raining down—they were in our hair, they were in our shirts. The wind was easily 70 miles per hour, and it was absolutely Armageddon."

Fortunately, Rob's house survived because he says the winds were blowing opposite of where he lived. When he left his home, he says he only had time to make sure the family got out safely. "We just left with the kids," he says. "It was so close to people who we know and love's homes, that's what I was thinking about. ...They had eight minutes to get out. This thing came on so fast, you just can't believe it."

Oprah says seeing a fire so close to where she lives made her see this kind of tragedy in a new light. "From now on I'll have so much more empathy and compassion for people who are going through it," she says. "When it's in your neighborhood, when it's your friends, your house, you feel differently about it."

Though Oprah wasn't home when the fire started, she says if she had been, she knows what she would have saved. "I don't have kids so the most important thing for me is my dogs," she says. "And my little dog Sophie's ashes."
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FROM: Oprah Fridays: Melissa Etheridge Speaks Out
Published on November 14, 2008

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