Southern California (October 23, 2007 – 1512 hours) – Six thousand firefighters have been joined by 1500 National Guardsmen in an attempt to extinguish 19 massive wildfires in the area between Santa Barbara County and the Mexican border. Early this morning President George Bush issued an emergency declaration for the area with a promise of additional equipment and manpower.
Two citizens are dead, 16 firefighters seriously injured and half million Californians have been evacuated, with more mandatory evacuations expected. Five of San Diego's 23 emergency shelters reached capacity Monday evening. Others evacuees took shelter with friends or relatives.
Officials say that the fires have 340,000 acres, claimed 1300 homes with another 60,000 others threatened. The number and intensity of the fires have stretched California's firefighting resources to the limit, with one department reporting the "lack of resources [is] hindering suppression efforts."
Two of the largest blazes East of San Diego are expected to join later today to become a superblaze. Firefighters and equipment have been withdrawn from the area in anticipation of the combined fires. In Los Angeles County the Ranch, the Buckweed and the Magic fires -- are projected to merge in about 48 hours into a more than 80,000-acre fire, according to Roger Richcreek of the Angeles National Forest.
By mid-morning thousands of evacuees were taking shelter in Qualcomm Stadium and other locations throughout San Diego. Marines began evacuating aircraft from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar to other military bases in California and Arizona. The San Diego Wild Animal Park moved some animals to the on-site animal hospital for their protection
Officials have stated that they fear the inferno could become even more destructive than the 2003 Cedar Fire, considered the worst wildfire ever on record. During that blaze 50,000 citizens were evacuated, compared to the the current ten-fold number of 500,000.
-San Diego County