Dallas Billionaire Forced Out of Home While Embers Rain Down

One minute Harold and Annette Simmons were enjoying a cocktail on the veranda of their 24 acre Montecito estate, the next, a property caretaker was telling them to pack up and get out. 

The fire that was sweeping through the southern California neighborhood, had spread far enough to ignite a small "tea house" on the edge of the Simmons property, right next door to Oprah Winfrey's home.

So the Simmons, their daughter and one of her friends loaded up and headed out.  When they got to the end of their long, winding driveway their good friend Rob Lowe was there waiting to make sure they were okay. By that time, the group was being whipped by 50-plus mph winds, and the fire was dangerously close. Here's how Lowe described the scene to a local TV station.

 "The Simmons' could not get out of their gate. Their daughter was lost on the property and so another gentleman and I pried the gates open," Lowe said. "We tried to comfort the Simmons', and embers were raining down. They were in our hair, they were in our shirts. The wind was easily 70 miles an hour and it was absolutely Armageddon.”

The Simmons tell NBC5 Lowe offered them lodging at a beach home that he owns nearby, but they declined having already made other arrangements.

The Simmons say they did try to make sure their gate would open in the event the electricity went out, but that they were never in any real danger. Their daughter and her friend made it out safely as well, having tried to access another exit.  The Simmons tell NBC5 that they're happy to report that the fire miraculously went around their property on both sides, leaving the main structures undamaged.

Oprah Winfrey inquired about the Simmons well-being on her show while talking to Lowe by phone. The Simmons and Winfrey have become close friends in recent years, with both Annette and Harold being featured at different times.

Harold Simmons is a Dallas investor who Forbes magazine lists as the 43 wealthiest person in the U.S.

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