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Thread: Wildfires Rage Across Southern California

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    Wildfires Rage Across Southern California

    Wildfires Rage Across Southern California


    Updated: 10-21-2007 05:43:15 PM


    By NOAKI SCHWARTZ
    Associated Press Writer


    MALIBU, Calif. --

    More than a half-dozen wildfires driven by powerful Santa Ana winds spread across Southern California on Sunday, killing one person near San Diego and destroying several homes and a church in celebrity-laden Malibu.

    No details were immediately available about the death in San Diego County, but four firefighters and four other people were injured and taken to hospitals, said Roxanne Provaznik, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry.

    The fire was among at least eight blazes stretching from northern Los Angeles County south to San Diego, as hot weather and strong winds marked the height of the traditional wildfire season.

    The fire responsible for the death and eight injuries burned about 2,500 acres near a highway. A second charred about 3,000 acres in northern San Diego County and was threatening homes near Witch Creek, Provaznik said.

    Meanwhile, in Malibu, about 500 firefighters worked to protect about 200 homes in several upscale communities nestled in the hills, officials said.

    The blaze, which started in Malibu Canyon, had charred at least 1,000 acres and destroyed a church and several homes, one of them a landmark castle.

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    California Fires Force 250,000 to Evacuate

    California Fires Force 250,000 to Evacuate


    Updated: 10-22-2007 12:46:34 PM


    By ALLISON HOFFMAN and GILLIAN FLACCUS
    Associated Press Writers

    SAN DIEGO --

    Wildfires fanned by fierce desert winds forced the evacuations of nearly 250,000 people Monday in San Diego County, including hundreds who were being moved by school bus and ambulance from a hospital and nursing homes.

    More than a dozen wildfires had engulfed Southern California, killing at least one person, injuring dozens more and threatening scores of structures.

    The fires have burned about 100,000 acres in San Diego County, said county Supervisor Ron Roberts. "This is a major emergency," he said.

    "We have more houses burning than we have people and engine companies to fight them," San Diego Fire Captain Lisa Blake said. "A lot of people are going to lose their homes today."

    About a dozen blazes erupted over the weekend, feeding on drought-parched land from the high desert to the Pacific Ocean. One person was killed and several injured in a fire near the Mexican border, and dozens of structures have burned across the region.

    Things got worse Monday, when new fires sprouted and others merged. Some of the worst damage was in Malibu, where a church, homes and a historic castle were destroyed.

    All San Diego Police Department officers and off duty detectives were ordered to return to work to help with evacuations.

    In many cases, crews couldn't begin to fight the fires because they were too busy rescuing residents who refused to leave, fire officials said.

    "They didn't evacuate at all, or delayed until it was too late," said Bill Metcalf, chief of the North County Fire Protection District. "And those folks who are making those decisions are actually stripping fire resources."

    One blaze devoured more than 5,000 acres in northern San Diego County and forced the evacuation of the community of Ramona, which has a population of about 36,000. Several structures were burned on the edge of town and sheriff's deputies called residents to alert them the fire was approaching the city, San Diego sheriff's Lt. Phil Brust said.

    "The winds are up, it's very, very dangerous conditions," San Diego County spokeswoman Lesley Kirk said. "Fires are popping up all over the place."


    Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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    Fatigue Strikes Many SoCal Firefighters

    Fatigue Strikes Many SoCal Firefighters


    Updated: 10-25-2007 08:08:29 AM


    By MARTHA MENDOZA
    AP National Writer

    RUNNING SPRINGS, Calif. --

    Forty hours after he arrived in the San Bernardino National Forest, firefighter Peter Stanton stepped gingerly over a sleeping colleague and wondered what his next assignment was going to be.

    "We've been going nonstop. I kind of hope they're going to send us to sleep, but I'm pretty sure we're going back out," he said.

    Fire crews, tankers and helicopters poured in to Southern California on Wednesday, bringing welcome relief to firefighters exhausted by as many as four straight days of fighting unusually ferocious blazes that were scattered across a huge swath of Southern California.

    From mountainside resorts to the shores of Malibu to the Mexican border, about 15 blazes destroyed at least 1,500 homes and threatened tens of thousands of others.

    Stanton and his colleagues fought to save homes near the mountain resort area of Lake Arrowhead, and at times fought to stay clearheaded as they dragged hoses and drove fire engines into infernos.

    "We are hearing about people getting tired," federal Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters in San Diego, site of some of the worst fires. He added he had spoken with other authorities about "the need to rotate firefighters out," giving them time to rest.

    "One of the big hazards is exhaustion, which leads to impaired judgment," Chertoff said.

    In some cases, however, the tired were relieving the tired. In northern Los Angeles County, some of the fire crews that had all but contained a 38,000-acre wildfire near Santa Clarita were being dispatched to the Lake Arrowhead area.

    "We have no idea how long we'll be gone for," said firefighter Al Taylor of the state Department of Forestry. "We just show up and try and have a good time."

    He and his colleagues planned to catch some sleep on the ride to their next assignment, a little more than 100 miles away.

    Firefighters are used to working to the point of exhaustion, Calipatria fire Chief Chris Hall said. He worked 35 hours straight on the Lake Arrowhead fires, got a few hours rest and then was back on the lines, helping mop up hot spots on a narrow street in Running Springs.

    The firefighters take pride in the homes they've been able to save since the blazes began breaking out one after another, beginning Sunday. Some said they are frustrated that there haven't been more people and equipment to help in the fight.

    "We've just been really, really short on resources," said Stanton, who arrived in the Lake Arrowhead area Monday with a team of 20 firefighters from Imperial County, east of San Diego.

    A two-pronged fire there in the San Bernardino Mountains has destroyed more than 300 homes so far. Stanton told of his crew having to abandon one small neighborhood in Running Springs when it became obvious that flames were going to overwhelm them.

    Hours later, tired and in an almost dreamlike state, he described the scene:

    "It was dark, the sky was glowing, the winds were blowing fiercely, and the longer we stayed the smokier we got," he said. "The embers were getting bigger and thicker. I looked up, the entire ridge was glowing.

    "You could tell the fire was coming closer and closer," he continued. "Then it hit the tops of the trees. They were popping, exploding, all in flames. The call went out to evacuate the entire command post."

    He paused for a moment.

    "I really haven't slept. Am I making any sense or just rambling?"

    ___

    Associated Press writers Jacob Adelman in Santa Clarita and Scott Lindlaw in San Diego contributed to this story.


    Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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