The person whose body was uncovered Wednesday from the rubble of a home burned to its foundation in the Woolsey Fire south of Agoura Hills was identified by family members as a retired oncologist.
Alfred Deciutiis, 73, chose not to leave his home in the 32000 block of Lobo Canyon Road, in an unincorporated area of the Santa Monica Mountains, where evacuation orders were issued for the area, according to loved ones who spoke with KTLA.
Deciutiis’ home was destroyed after the massive blaze tore through the canyon area south of the 101 Freeway. Soon after, his brother Charlie contacted authorities to report him missing.
Investigators responded to the home around 6 a.m. Wednesday morning, and cadaver dogs soon uncovered a body, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
“About 20 minutes after the arrival of cadaver dogs they located the remains of one victim who we presume — but don’t know for a fact at this point — is the resident,” Lt. Derrick Alfred told reporters.
The body was so badly burned that authorities could not determine the victim’s age, gender or race. Coroner’s officials don’t think they’ll be able to positively identify the remains before the end of the week.
But Deciutiis’ family said they’re sure it’s him.
Deciutiis was a prominent oncologist and internist who worked in Southern California for more than 40 years after receiving his medical license in 1975.
Though he was retired, records from the Medical Board of California show his license wasn’t set to expire until next October.
Nick Jackson, the victim’s friend and neighbor, said he was heartbroken he didn’t take Deciutiis with him.
“He was up there, obviously on his own,” Jackson said. “We could have tried to get up there and try and help, but we had no idea. We just didn’t know.”
Officials now estimate over 500 structures have been destroyed in the fire, and nearly 100 more damaged.
Before Deciutiis’ body was found, the blaze was linked to the deaths of two others whose bodies were found in a burnt out SUV in Malibu on Nov. 9.
Those victims have not been identified, but sheriff’s Sgt. Guillermo Morales said officials don’t believe they were from the area because “those people have been accounted for.”