George Anstead gazed today at the ruins of his uninsured home of 47 years and wondered if he should have stayed behind and tried to save it from the grass fire that swept through the area.

Anstead, 81, and at least 36 other residents of the Happy Valley area lost their homes to the blaze that pushed through a five-mile swath of modest houses, ranchettes and mobile homes.

The fire was started Sunday morning by a trailer that was being towed by a pickup truck. The trailer's loading ramp was down, dragging on the road and shooting sparks, which started several fires that merged, said Kevin Colburn, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry. Investigators believe the fires started accidentally but they are looking for the driver and may seek reimbursement for firefighting costs, he said.

The fire rushed over shallow canyons covered with oaks and brittle grass to scorch 2,000 acres. An estimated 500 to 700 people were ordered to leave their property. The fire was contained early today.

On the central California coast, two groups of fires had burned 44,700 acres, and with temperatures rising to 94 degrees on Big Sur's steep slopes, the firefighters were taking a beating, spokesman Mark Savage said.

Back in Happy Valley, Anstead said he's not sure what he'll do now. "Probably get a loan and put in a new house," he said.