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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Update on California Wildfires

(AP photo)

We have been watching this story since it started and the update has the number evacuated from their homes at 320,000 so far and rising and 56,000 homes threatened.

Fears grew north of Los Angeles that the winds may fan three wildfires into one monster blaze, with too few resources available to fight it.

Those fires threaten more than 56,000 homes.

In San Diego County, 300,000 evacuees sought refuge in shelters, schools and stadiums as fires pushed into new areas Tuesday.

"It will not end ... until it reaches the ocean or the winds turn around," San Diego Fire Battalion Chief Bruce Cartelli said.

The NYT reports that there are 15 separate burns in 7 counties burning some 267,000 acres from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border.

About 1,500 National Guard troops, including 200 diverted from the border, were deployed to help with evacuation and crowd control, mostly in the San Diego area, which appeared to be the hardest hit.

There, seven fires intensified and forced the largest evacuation ever in San Diego County, including entire towns like Ramona and Rancho Santa Fe in the rustic northern stretches. A total of 250,000 people were urged to evacuate.

Nearly 600 homes and 100 commercial buildings have burned in Southern California, most in San Diego County. Late Monday, about 15,100 were considered threatened.

State emergency officials said they feared that the fires, devouring some of the thickest and driest brush in years, could surpass the destruction of 2003, when California experienced its worst fire season on record.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had declared a state of emergency in seven counties on Sunday, said President Bush had called to offer federal assistance with the blazes, which could take several days to extinguish. [Mr. Bush ordered federal aid to the region early this morning, The A.P. reported.]

The destruction and devastation is heartbreaking and amazingly enough only one death has so far been reported.

(Several structures burn as strong, gusting winds pushed flames through Malibu, Calif., Sunday. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Reed Saxon)

More from the AP about evacuees hunkered down at the San Diego Stadium.

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Like Hurricane Katrina evacuees two years earlier in New Orleans, thousands of people rousted by natural disaster fled to the NFL stadium here, waiting out the calamity and worrying about their homes.

The similarities ended there, as an almost festive atmosphere reigned at Qualcomm Stadium.

Bands belted out rock 'n' roll, lavish buffets served gourmet entrees, and massage therapists helped relieve the stress for those forced to flee their homes because of wildfires.

"The people are happy. They have everything here," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared Monday night after his second Qualcomm tour.

Although anxieties ran high, the misery index seemed low as the celebrity governor waded through the mob. Scarcely a complaint was registered with him.

"Oooh, I got a picture!" shrieked Olivia Beard of Ocean Beach, one of hundreds who pressed toward Schwarzenegger with camera phones snapping.

The fires destroyed some 500 homes and 100 businesses in San Diego County, the greatest swath of destruction in a series of Southern California blazes that began Sunday.

Of the more than 250,000 people forced from their homes, volunteer coordinators estimated that 10,000 took shelter at Qualcomm, home of the San Diego Chargers. Others camped out in hotels, with friends and family and in other shelters scattered throughout the city.

Read the rest.

I will continue to update as more news comes out...