AVALON – The vista is spectacular. Its frame is not. Two brick chimneys bracketing the view of sparkling Avalon Harbor were all that was left Friday of a hilltop house lost to a wildfire that rampaged across Santa Catalina Island until it was stopped on the edge of town. The day after the conflagration, the ruins smoldered under a brilliant breezy blue sky as two firefighters napped in sleeping bags near a fire engine guarding Quail Court on the slopes high above the city of Avalon. A bathtub and washing machine lay in the pile of white and gray ash outlined by the foundation. With nearly 4,000 people evacuated, Santa Catalina Island hasn’t been jolted by fire like this in a long time – but this bone-dry year already is shaping up as a frightful wildfire season in Southern California. Only one home and six industrial businesses burned and no one had been seriously injured by Friday, giving firefighters their latest in a string of dramatic victories. About 50 miles away on the mainland, crews just days before beat back flames in Los Angeles’ sprawling Griffith Park that singed a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes. That was the third menacing fire in the Hollywood Hills this spring – and wildfire season here isn’t supposed to heat up until the fall. This has been one of the driest rainy seasons on record: Just 2 inches have fallen on Catalina this year. Notices in hotel bathrooms warn of drought. “Please turn off water while shaving & brushing teeth,” they urge. As flames bore down from the mountains northwest of Avalon on Thursday, the Catalina fire rained ash and chaos on a picturesque town where most people get around on foot, bike or golf cart. Those who were forced to flee after nightfall clambered onto ferries that passed U.S. Navy hovercraft packed with fire trucks from the mainland, more than 20 miles away. Many were workers who cook and clean for vacationers. Others were at vacation homes as the summer tourist season geared up. “It’s like a war zone. The skies turned completely gray with orange streaks. The helicopters were flying all over the place,” said Anita Bussing, a therapist whose other home is in Long Beach. “People were freaking out, children were crying.” By Friday afternoon, one ferry full of residents headed back to the island on an hour-plus voyage from Long Beach. Sheriff’s deputies were stationed on the island dock to make sure only residents came ashore. At midafternoon, a relay of water-carrying helicopters began saturating a hillside at the edge of town where smoke curled into the blue sky. The step appeared intended to extinguish any lingering hot spots. Flames were no longer visible from Avalon, though a layer of ash recalled a harrowing night and water-dropping helicopters and planes crisscrossed the clear sky. Boats bobbed in the harbor where on a normal day tourists would be entertained by the antics of flying fish or mesmerized by the sparkling sea. Those who stayed behind when others evacuated stopped to get coffee and chat in the few open cafes along the main promenade. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said about 3,800 people were evacuated. About 4,200 acres – the equivalent of about six square miles on the 76-square-mile island – had burned. Containment was estimated at 35 percent late Friday afternoon and officials announced that residents were allowed to return but visitors were barred from the island until further notice. Avalon Fire Chief Steven Hoefs said the fire remained under investigation, but it appeared to have been sparked as contractors worked on antennas at a radio station in the island’s interior. About 700 firefighters worked the fire, aided by weather much improved from Thursday’s gusty, dry conditions. The island’s romantic vibe was memorialized in the 1958 hit “26 Miles (Santa Catalina).” Before private jets and third homes became standard fare for the rich and really famous, Santa Catalina was a celebrity haunt. John Wayne trolled its shores in a converted minesweeper. The Tuna Club, which claims to be the oldest fishing club in the U.S., boasts past members including Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Cecil B. DeMille. A pre-Hollywood-and-White-House Ronald Reagan broadcast Chicago Cubs’ spring training games in 1937 from the island, which at the time was owned by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr.Hundreds of films have been filmed on the island or in its waters, according to the island’s Chamber of Commerce. One relic of that era are bison that were brought over for filming in the 1920s and later released. Environmentalists said it was too early to tell how the blaze affected the island’s overall ecosystem, home to some rare animal and plant life, including the Catalina Island fox. One thing was sure: Four bald eaglets that hatched earlier this year without human help were unharmed, according to Bob Rhein, a spokesman for the Catalina Island Conservancy which owns most of the island. Scientists have been slowly reintroducing eagles, which were wiped out decades ago by chemical contamination. Avalon Mayor Robert Kennedy credited the success of this week’s firefighting to quick-arriving reinforcements from the mainland and training that included dry runs with the Navy hovercraft and helicopter drops. “We were overrun,” said Kennedy, who as one of about 30 volunteer firefighters helping the island’s 13 full-time staff was part of the initial team that confronted flames chewing through brush on the hills outside town. “It was a question of whether we were going to get the units who responded from Avalon back to town. … But by sun-up it looked like we survived the wrath of the flame,” Kennedy said. Staff Writer Samantha Gonzaga contributed to this story.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “The bad part is that we lost our house,” said Brad Wilson, who lived on Coal Canyon Road. “But the good news is, it is the only house lost. It’s a testament to our firefighters & the town is still intact.” Just feet away, a brick patio and wooden deck with new wooden furniture and a green umbrella were unscathed. Nearby, Jim Gilligan expected to find devastation when he finally reached his workplace. But like the patio furniture, Dave Zeller Construction was still standing – with charred ground 30 feet from its front door. “I thought it would be a melted ball of plastic,” he said as he surveyed the wasteland from one of the ubiquitous golf carts used for transportation on the island. “They did an awesome job,” he said. Firefighters who halted the soaring flames saved a throwback resort of cobblestone walkways and brightly painted homes ringing a palm-fringed crescent harbor.