Monday, October 22, 2007

Deadly Firestorms Ravage Southern California

SOCAL (October 22, 2007) -- Dozens of wildfires are out of control in Southern California leaving behind major damage. One person is dead, hundreds injured and fire officials say that none of the firestorms have been contained. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency seven counties.

Today, a quarter-million San Diego County residents were ordered to evacuate as blazes ripped across dry brush and vegetation, fed by desert hot Santa Ana winds. At last report tens of thousands of homes are at risk of being destroyed.

One band of wildfires about 70 miles southeast of San Diego had already blackened 14,000 acres or 22 square miles and there are no signs that the wildfires can be halted.

Further North, along famed Highway One, out-of-control wildfires threatened thousands of Malibu area homes late Monday, as firefighters raced to beat back the blazes. 700 firefighters worked to protect hundreds of homes in several upscale communities nestled in the hills.
The fires, which covered swaths of drought-parched land, from the high desert to the Pacific Ocean. Some of the worst damage in Malibu, included a church, homes and a castle – all burned to the ground.

In many areas near Malibu, the fires were like flashbacks. Between Oct. 21 and Nov. 4 of 2003, 15 fires in many of the same areas killed 22 people, destroyed 3,640 homes and blackened 750,000 acres.

"It was nuclear winter. It was like Armageddon. It looked like the end of the world," Mitch Mendler, a San Diego firefighter, told the AP while he and his crew stopped at a shopping center parking lot to refill their water truck from a hydrant near a restaurant.

"I lost count," he said when asked how many homes had burned
Meanwhile, California officials appealed to fire agencies in other states for help.

As flames roared down on communities with amazing speed, firefighters complained that their efforts to stop them were delayed when people who refused to leave their homes confronted them.

In the San Bernardino Mountains, mandatory evacuations were ordered in several communities where 1,500 homes were threatened by two blazes that had blackened more than 600 acres west of Lake Arrowhead and in the Green Valley area.

At least one of the fires, in Orange County, was believed to be caused by arson, said Orange County Fire Authority spokeswoman Lynnette Round. It consumed about 8,800 acres was 30 percent contained.


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