[cifnmedia] California Wildfire Burns Over 250 Homes

  • From: Sean & Kimberly Aaron <cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: CIFN LIST <cifnmedia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 27 Oct 2003 06:04:25 -0800 (PST)

Updated: 10-26-2003 10:35:59 AM

California Wildfire Burns Over 250 Homes
 

 

EPA/FRANCIS SPECKER

Firefighters are silohuetted against the smoke and firel during a wildfire in 
the San Bernardino, California area on Saturday 25 October, 2003. Wildfires in 
the area have burnt thousands of acres of forests and forced evacutation of 
homes in the area.
 
 
 

 

AP Photo/ Nam Y. Huh

A wildfire approaches a residential area in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif, Friday, 
Oct. 24, 2003. With ash and smoke turning day into night, a wind-driven 
wildfire closed in on several Southern California communities Friday, 
destroying four houses and forcing firefighters to make their stand in back 
yards.
 
 
 

 

EPA/FRANCIS SPECKER

A firefighter walks by the wildfires that threaten the Rancho Cucamonga, 
California area on Firday 24 October, 2003. Wildfires in the area have burnt 
thousands of acres of forests and forced evacutation of homes in the area. 
 
 
 
LAURA WIDES 
Associated Press 

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) -- Powerful Santa Ana winds kicked up before dawn 
Sunday, driving two ferocious firestorms that had already burned more than 200 
homes across more lawns and rooftops. 

In a canyon at the edge of Claremont, about 50 homes were in flames as the 
winds swept a more than 34,000-acre wildfire to the west. Closer to San 
Bernardino, a wildfire that burned at least 200 homes Saturday and was blamed 
for the stress-related deaths of two residents was threatening at least 1,000 
homes. The smoke and flames forced the evacuation of a university campus, 
Indian casino and state mental hospital, and firefighters couldn't say when it 
might be contained. 

``We're not sure exactly how many burned because we can't get up there,'' said 
Los Angeles County fire Inspector Edward Osorio. ``Our priority of the moment 
right now is structure protection, not containment.'' 

The larger fire, near Claremont, had started in the Rancho Cucamonga area 
Tuesday and had destroyed 16 homes in San Bernardino County before spreading 
into Los Angeles County. Osorio said Sunday that authorities were going through 
the cities of La Verne and Claremont, urging people to evacuate immediately. 

At at least one point, the two wildfires were only about a mile apart Sunday, 
and Ranger Gabriel Garcia of the San Bernardino National Forest's fire 
suppression agency said he expected they would eventually merge. 

Gov. Gray Davis declared a state of emergency for San Bernardino and Ventura 
counties late Saturday. 

``We are taking every possible step to support the firefighting effort,'' Davis 
said. He said he called on President Bush to issue a disaster declaration to 
free up federal loan money for people who lost homes. 

The winds had died down as the temperature dropped over night but they picked 
up again early Sunday, sending authorities rushing to evacuate hundreds more 
homes in the resort areas of Lake Arrowhead and Crestline, just north of San 
Bernardino. 

Garcia said firefighters he talked to Sunday morning were not optimistic they 
could save all the homes in the blaze's path. 

``First thing they said is they're getting their butts kicked,'' Garcia said. 
``They're saving a lot but they can't save it all.'' 

The devastating fire that burned more than 200 homes in and around San 
Bernardino, one of several burning in the dry Southern California brush, 
erupted about 9 a.m. Saturday 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. Fierce 
Santa Ana winds propelled the flames across 10,000 acres within hours, 
spreading to a 12-mile front. Erratic winds gusting to 40 mph pushed the blaze 
in constantly changing directions. 

About 100 miles to the northwest, in Ventura County, other wildfires were 
raging early Sunday in the hills above Simi Valley's Ronald Reagan Presidential 
Library and near Piru, where 300 homes were threatened for a time. The Simi 
Valley fire had burned 47,000 acres by daybreak, damaged 14 homes and was 
threatening as many as 2,000 structures. It had also shut down Highway 118, the 
main route connecting Ventura County to Los Angeles. 

The fires created eerie scenes before dawn, with jagged streaks of orange 
illuminating the darkened skies so much that white smoke and ash could be seen 
swirling above the blackened hillsides. 

By far the most devastating of the blazes started in San Bernardino's Old 
Waterman Canyon. 

It forced the evacuation of the San Manuel Indian Reservation's casino and the 
campus of California State University, San Bernardino, where flames damaged two 
temporary classrooms and a temporary fitness center. Patton State Hospital, 
which houses about 1,300 mental patients, also had to be evacuated. 

Two firefighters suffered second degree burns, and at least three others 
suffered minor burns or smoke inhalation on Sunday. 

More than 4,200 people had been ordered by Saturday night to leave their homes 
in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, although some refused, 
staying behind to spray water on their roofs with garden hoses as flames danced 
all around them. 

Robert Wilkes turned his hose on burning palm trees in an effort to keep the 
flames from his home and his neighbor's until he finally had to leave. 

``He saved our house,'' said neighbor Dwane Caddell. Much of the rest of 
Caddell's property was damaged, however. His swimming pool was black with 
debris and singed palm trees and shrubbery surrounded the house. 

The San Bernardino County coroner's office blamed the deaths of two men on 
stress caused by the fire. James W. McDermith, 70, collapsed while evacuating 
his home, and Charles Cunningham, 93, collapsed as he stood in the street 
watching his house burn. 

The fires closed highways, cut power to thousands and choked the region with 
heavy smoke and ash. 

Evacuation centers were packed, including one near San Bernardino International 
Airport, where as many as 1,000 people gathered, including about 50 people in 
wheelchairs who were taken from a convalescent home. 

Hundreds of people sat beside their cars in the parking lot, some watching the 
burning hills through binoculars. 

One family gathered in a prayer circle. Dozens of caged dogs and cats evacuated 
by their owners lined the roads. Authorities said at least three people were 
arrested on suspicion of looting in the devastated area. 

Sharon Robinson, 62, and her daughter Kim Robinson, 46, left with their clothes 
and other belongings in the back of their truck. 

``We've lived in our home for 35 years,'' Sharon Robinson said. ``Fire has 
always stopped in the foothills. I never thought it would reach our home.'' 

Associated Press writer Alexandria Sage contributed to this story 
 



Sean A. Aaron (CIFN*1)
Central Illinois Fire Network
cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
www.geocities.com/central_illinois_firenet


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