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Wildfire Engulfs Popular Calif. Resort
Yahoo ^ | 10/28/03 | Gina Keating, Dan Whitcomb

Posted on 10/28/2003 6:42:53 PM PST by Tumbleweed_Connection

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Residents jammed narrow winding roads off a burning mountain on Tuesday as one of 10 wildfires raging across Southern California threatened to engulf two popular resort towns.

As exhausted firefighters tried desperately to beat back the flames, authorities ordered more than 40,000 residents of Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear to flee their homes.

The fire burned over a ridge through bone-dry and disease- infested timber that provided ideal fuel for an inferno that spewed a towering plume of smoke and ash.

The fire has claimed at least 20 homes near Lake Arrowhead since late Monday, and could incinerate thousands more before crews are able to contain it.

Kristel Johnson, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman, said the fire was so intense that it had created its own weather system of hot, swirling winds that drove walls of flame erratically down hillsides.

The evacuation came as firefighters elsewhere in Southern California reported making headway against blazes that have torched more than 550,000 acres and 1,900 homes and outbuildings, and killed 18 people and injured dozens of others.

Outside Los Angeles, fire crews saved thousands of million-dollar homes in the foothills of the Santa Susana Mountains by bombarding the slow-moving Simi Valley blaze from the air, a county fire spokesman said.

The spokesman said that 95,000-acre fire had been turned away from homes, partially contained, and was burning eastward toward an uninhabited area.

Firefighters in hard-hit San Diego County chased three blazes away from homes and worked to extinguish "hot spots," though the fire is still not contained.

"The weather is at least making a small turn in the right direction," San Diego fire spokeswoman Jan Shuttleworth said. "If that trend continues it will really be a big help."

But residents of two eastern San Diego County communities were ordered to leave around midday on Tuesday, when a 10-mile wide front of the fire roared toward their homes.

California Department of Forestry officials said some exhausted firefighters were being taken off the fire's front lines in that San Diego County hotspot without being replaced because they had been working for more than 36 consecutive hours.

"We do have many firefighters pulled off the lines ... they are exhausted and they may get hurt," forestry department spokeswoman Lora Lowes said. "Live to fight another day, you know?"

The area's two main fires were "lapping toward each other" and threatening to merge into one superblaze, Lowes said.

Forecasts pointed to decreasing temperatures accompanied by higher humidity and lighters winds in the coming 24 hours -- conditions that firefighters said were their most effective tool against the blazes.

The Federal Aviation Administration (news - web sites) reopened a radar facility in Miramar, close to San Diego, that controls much of the commercial air traffic in Southern California. The facility was evacuated on Sunday morning when a fire came within feet of it. The closure caused massive air traffic delays at airports throughout the region.

Air traffic at Los Angeles International Airport, San Diego's Lindbergh Field and Burbank airport was nearly normal on Tuesday, an FAA spokesman said.

President Bush (news - web sites) has declared a state of emergency in four counties, and Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger (news - web sites) was traveling to Washington, D.C. to meet congressional leaders on Wednesday to ask for the federal funds triggered by Bush's declaration of a state of emergency.

By Tuesday afternoon, firemen in Baja California, in northern Mexico, had brought under control the worst of the fires that spread over the border from California, killing two Mexicans.

One of the fires being battled in Southern California was set by a lost hunter trying to signal his whereabouts to a partner. Two other fires were believed set by arsonists.

TOPICS: News/Current Events; US: California
KEYWORDS: damages; fire

1 posted on 10/28/2003 6:42:55 PM PST by Tumbleweed_Connection
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection
The fire burned over a ridge through bone-dry and disease- infested timber that provided ideal fuel for an inferno that spewed a towering plume of smoke and ash.

One guesses it hadn't been thinned and managed to prevent just such a catastrophe. Nice going Greens, aided and abetted by your like-minded pals in the forestry agencies. Time to burn THEM out.

2 posted on 10/28/2003 6:47:12 PM PST by JennysCool
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection
does ANYBODY know anything about running springs?
3 posted on 10/28/2003 6:48:08 PM PST by wildwood
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To: wildwood
Does anybody know anything about Crestline?
4 posted on 10/28/2003 6:48:40 PM PST by South40 (My vote helped defeat bustamante. Did yours?)
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To: South40; wildwood
If anyone does, it'll be posted on the live thread (BIG, lots of graphics)

Apologies in advance if you've already seen the thread.
5 posted on 10/28/2003 6:51:05 PM PST by petuniasevan (This is my tagline. MINE! You can't HAVE it!)
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To: JennysCool
I'm reading that estimated cost at this point is $2 billion.
6 posted on 10/28/2003 6:53:34 PM PST by Tumbleweed_Connection
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection
Evacuees are departing towards the desert and Old Woman Springs Rd. Sheriff announced that 247 and 62 were bumper to bumper from Yucca Valley to Hi 10. If the fire is approaching you, you need to leave because the roadway might be so congested that no traffic is flowing below and backing up towards your area.

Considering the 3rd largest recorded solar flare is to hit about midnight tonight, satellite comm, radio communications and some microcircuitry might fail to operate. Recommend fueling up before midnight if you are on the road. Conditions might not be obvious until they are already upon us.
7 posted on 10/28/2003 6:54:32 PM PST by Cvengr (0:^))
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To: JennysCool
That's right. Its dangerous NOT to thin the forest but the greenies must have their way, of course.
8 posted on 10/28/2003 7:06:00 PM PST by Samizdat
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