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  1. #81
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    Post Victims Cope

    SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) - Wildfires destroyed their homes,
    burned their cars and rattled their spirit.
    A week after the last blaze was contained, some of the most
    hard-hit victims are still wearing borrowed clothes, sleeping in
    strange beds and relying on government aid and charity as they
    struggle to cope with their losses and rebuild their lives.
    They know things will never be the same.
    Todd Stewart, 39, wore his brother's clothes after wind-whipped
    flames ripped through his Del Rosa neighborhood Oct. 25 in the
    foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains.
    Depressed and distraught, Stewart said he walked around with his
    head down for five days after flames destroyed the three-bedroom
    house he shared with his mother.
    "You have to cope with it," he said Tuesday as a crew removed
    the rubble that was once his home. "Every day you do as much as
    you can handle to move forward. It keeps you out of the
    depression."
    Like Stewart, other victims of the wildfires are trying to
    muster the will to move on as they turn to families, friends and
    other sources for help.
    Pamela Lankarani, 60, and her son, Duane Litzmann, 43, have
    sifted through the rubble of their four-bedroom home for anything
    worth keeping.
    "For about the first week I was not sleeping much, not wanting
    to eat, and I was crying over my cat," she said.
    Pepper, her gray, green-eyed pet of seven years, has been
    missing since the fire. Lankarani blames herself for not getting
    the cat to safety.
    "People keep telling me to look on the bright side because I am
    going to get a brand new house," she said. "But it's not going to
    be the same because one member of the family is not going to be
    here."
    The self-described "clothes horse" said she lost beautiful
    sweaters, lined boots, hats, gloves and scarves in the fire. Now
    she doesn't care much about clothes and wears borrowed baggy jeans
    and an old sweat shirt.
    The wildfires that ripped across Southern California claimed 24
    lives, destroyed more than 3,600 homes and consumed nearly 750,000
    acres. Gov. Gray Davis called them the worst fire disaster in state
    history.
    Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency said
    Wednesday that more than 13,400 people have registered for
    assistance and more than $9 million has been provided thus far to
    victims to help with housing and other needs.
    "It's a tough road these families are on right now, especially
    those who have lost everything," said Steve Woods, a Red Cross
    spokesman. "We know there's much to do in the next weeks and
    months."
    The Red Cross chapter in the San Bernardino area has made more
    than 7,000 mental health contacts with fire victims to help them
    work on recovery, he said.
    The wildfires are still troubling 44-year-old Misty Vine, a
    mother of seven, even though her mountain home in Lake Gregory
    survived the inferno.
    "I've lost 11 pounds from stress, and I'm going for another
    five or 10," said Vine, who has sought aid at a one-stop
    government service center at San Bernardino International Airport.
    "I'm trying to eat. I can't have a nervous breakdown because I
    have kids."
    Vine said she's had intense migraine headaches since the fire
    and takes anti-anxiety medication to deal with stress. Her husband,
    a general contractor, didn't work for two weeks and expenses
    mounted after her family was evacuated.
    She got good news at the service center, when a county worker
    said she was eligible for $700 in food stamps.
    Stewart is trying to move on by focusing on the future. He
    initially bought jeans and tennis shoes after losing his clothes in
    the fire. Now he plans to buy one nice outfit a week.
    "It's funny not having any clothes," he said. "Think about
    how many years it takes you to get the cool stuff you really
    love."
    Stewart tries to find at least one positive moment to dwell on
    each day to get through the catastrophe.
    That moment came Tuesday when a cleaning crew found his
    brother's military saber and sheath among the fire debris.
    "He's going to be happy," Stewart said, smiling as he held the
    charred sword. "This is awesome."

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  2. #82
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    Thumbs up Thanks!

    SAN DIEGO (AP) - A sparse crowd thinned out across a 70,000-seat
    stadium at a rally Sunday that was intended as a thank-you to the
    men and women who battled the largest wildfire in modern California
    history.
    The low turnout at Qualcomm Stadium was not lost on those who
    came to thank the roughly 500 firefighters and law enforcement
    personnel who strode onto the playing field to cheers, music and
    fireworks.
    "It's too bad a lot more people weren't here," said Susan
    James, whose home was spared in the fire-ravaged neighborhood of
    Scripps Ranch. "They should have been."
    Sixteen people were killed, including one firefighter, and more
    than 2,500 homes were destroyed by two blazes that began Oct. 25-26
    and swiftly burned up 12 percent of San Diego County's land.
    The rally was held both to acknowledge the risks the
    firefighters faced and as thanks for what they were able to save.
    Within the fire lines or within a quarter-mile of the flames
    were 36,800 homes valued at nearly $7 billion that remain standing,
    said Bill Clayton, a division chief with the California Department
    of Forestry and Fire Protection.
    "The lives we lost is a terrible tragedy, but think of the
    thousands that were saved," said Mayor Dick Murphy.
    San Diego-based Qualcomm Corp. contributed most of the $75,000
    cost of the event, said Carolyn Wormser, director of special
    events.
    Wormser said the crowd was between 3,000 and 4,000 people, but
    the rows of empty blue seats in the stadium and plenty of elbow
    room on the playing field made the crowd seem much smaller. The
    mayor said he was pleased by the turnout for the event, which was
    organized on 10 days notice.
    "It would have been nicer to have 50,000 people here but these
    things are spontaneous," Murphy said.

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  3. #83
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    Post The Blame Game

    SAN DIEGO (AP) - Fire officials told local leaders for years
    that a lack of firefighters combined with dry brush and hot winds
    could result in massive wildfires like the ones that raged in
    recent weeks - but the warnings were often ignored, it was reported
    Saturday.
    Fire officials also predicted they would be unable to stop even
    small brush fires because they lacked resources, according to a
    review of San Diego city and county records by the Los Angeles
    Times.
    Voters, however, rejected referendums to beef up fire protection
    with increased taxes.
    The review came as the California Department of Forestry
    announced the Cedar and Paradise fires would be fully extinguished
    in several days.
    Both fires began in dry backcountry brush and went on to kill a
    total of 16 people and destroy 2,453 homes as they raced through
    northern and eastern San Diego County.
    The blazes were among a barrage of devastating wildfires in
    Southern California in recent weeks.
    The Cedar Fire, the most disastrous in California history, cost
    nearly $30 million to fight. Property damage has yet to be
    determined.
    "Those fires were both predicted and predictable," said county
    Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who has long pushed for improved fire
    services.
    Warnings about the lack of resources were presented over the
    last two decades. Often they came in reports from task forces
    created in response to previous fires.
    Firefighters said the recent fires burned just as expected.
    A study conducted by the CDF last year produced a computer model
    that was almost identical to the route of the Cedar Fire, which
    burned 345 homes in the upscale community of Scripps Ranch.
    As far back as 1982, then city Fire Chief Earl Roberts warned
    the community would be most vulnerable over the weekends, when
    department staffing levels were lowest.
    The Cedar Fire erupted on Oct. 25, a Saturday, destroying
    hundreds of Scripps Ranch homes by Sunday afternoon.
    Roberts resigned in 1984, complaining his recommendations for
    improving the department had been ignored.
    San Diego has one of the lowest ratios of firefighters to
    population of any major U.S. city. In outlying communities, the
    county relies on more than 60 agencies, some staffed by volunteers.
    On Thursday, San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy called for the
    formation of another task force to examine how to improve
    firefighting.
    The commission will look at the same issues a similar review
    panel studied after a 1985 blaze - brush clearing, improving
    communication and gear, hiring more firefighters and improving
    coordination.
    "We've been given a second chance," attorney Michael Aguirre
    told the City Council as it discussed last month's fires. "Let's
    not blow it."
    The county Board of Supervisors voted Nov. 5 to create a
    regional aerial fire protection district. The county wants to put
    the measure before voters by March.
    The Legislature would also have to sign off on the idea.


    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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  4. #84
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    Unhappy

    Deadly San Diego area wildfire believed to have been work of serial
    arsonist
    jrlos1
    SAN DIEGO (AP) - Last fall's deadly Paradise Fire was likely set
    by one or more serial arsonists who authorities believe are
    responsible for as many as 15 other blazes in the same area over
    the last seven years.
    The fire, which began near Paradise Creek Road on the Rincon
    Indian Reservation near Valley Center on Oct. 26, scorched more
    than 56,000 acres, destroyed more than 200 homes and killed two
    people.
    Investigators concluded last month that it was set by one or
    more arsonists. They now believe that same person or persons also
    set more than a dozen other fires in the same area. The worst of
    those was a 1996 blaze that blackened about 400 acres near the
    current site of a Harrah's Casino.
    All of the fires were traced to the same five-acre area where
    the Paradise fire began, said Capt. Gary Eidsmoe of the California
    Department of Forestry.
    The Paradise Fire was the smaller of two blazes that devastated
    San Diego County in October. The Cedar Fire, the largest wildfire
    in state history, was accidentally started by a hunter in the
    Cleveland National Forest on Oct. 25.

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    Post 3/28

    BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. (AP) - Firefighters aided by chilly
    temperatures and mountaintop snow on Saturday contained a
    controlled burn that turned into a 350-acre forest fire.
    The blaze in the San Bernardino Mountains, which forced the
    evacuation of two ski resorts, stopped moving Friday and was not
    threatening any homes. About 250 firefighters remained on the lines
    Saturday night and officials expected them to have fully
    extinguished the blaze by Sunday evening.
    About 10 of the scorched acres were outside the boundaries of
    the planned 500-acre controlled burn by the U.S. Forest Service.
    The Forest Service next week will review its handling of the
    intentionally set blaze. Some residents said they were not given
    enough notification and others were upset that firefighters lost
    control.
    National forest spokeswoman Ruth Wenstrom said forest fuels
    management officer Bob Sommer, incident commander when the blaze
    got out of control, acted appropriately.
    The Bear Mountain ski area reopened Saturday, a day after
    adjacent Snow Summit started accepting skiers and snowboarders.
    Hundreds of skiers were evacuated from both areas Thursday, when
    the blaze got out of control and destroyed a hut used by Bear
    Mountain's ski patrol.
    The blaze was set Wednesday by the Forest Service to destroy dry
    brush and dead trees in one of the nation's most heavily urbanized
    forests.

    (Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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  6. #86
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    Post Wildfire Losses

    LOS ANGELES (AP) - Homes in the path of California's most
    destructive wildfire were more likely to survive if they were made
    of fire-resistant materials and were set far back from flammable
    vegetation, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times.
    An evaluation of homes destroyed in the deadliest of the October
    fires, the Cedar fire in San Diego County, found homes built after
    1990 were far less likely to burn than older structures that were
    more likely to be made of wood and flammable roofing material.
    Homes built during the 1990s were damaged or destroyed at less than
    half the rate of houses built earlier. Houses built during the
    current decade were even less likely to be burned.
    The 281,000-acre Cedar fire, which is believed to have been
    started by a lost hunter on Oct. 25, burned more than 2,200 homes
    and killed 15 people, including one firefighter.
    The Times reported Thursday that vegetation was the main factor
    in whether a house burned. Nearly 90 percent of homes destroyed
    outside San Diego city limits had flammable vegetation within 30
    feet, and two-thirds had vegetation within 10 feet, according to
    county inspectors.
    Other factors were the materials used in the homes. The analysis
    found:
    - More than 45 percent of the homes that were destroyed had wood
    siding, according to city and county inspectors.
    - Composition roofs made of layered tar paper or tar-based
    shingles were on nearly 60 percent of the burned homes; houses with
    tile or other ceramic roofs accounted for fewer than 20 percent of
    burned homes.
    Although any house could succumb to 100-foot flames, the lessons
    of the October fires indicate that "if you have 30-foot clearance
    and a good roof, you have a 95 percent chance of survival," said
    Richard Montague, a consultant who prepares fire management plans
    for housing developments.
    An example can be seen by comparing the impact of the fire on
    two communities: Harbison Canyon, were more than half the homes
    were built before 1970 and Talon's Reach, a new development that
    was still unfinished in October. Harbison Canyon lost almost every
    other house while Talon's Reach remained nearly intact.
    Most of the homes burned in Harbison Canyon had wood siding and
    composition roofs. More than half of the homes lining a creek bed
    amid eucalyptus and native oak were destroyed.
    Homes in Talon's Reach comply with the latest fire regulations,
    which call for the highest class of fire-resistant roofing and
    exteriors, and 100 feet of clearance from brush. All but three of
    the development's 43 homes escaped undamaged. Two of those that
    burned were unfinished structures ignited by construction debris.
    As fire victims rebuild, officials are trying to balance safety
    with the desires of homeowners who want to replicate the rustic
    look and feel of their destroyed dwellings.
    The decision comes down to "a level of acceptability," said
    San Diego County Fire Services Coordinator Ralph Steinhoff. "How
    safe is safe?"
    County officials are allowing older homes to be rebuilt with
    smaller property-line setbacks than would be required under current
    zoning codes.
    "It met standards in the 1950s, and just because there was a
    fire, it didn't seem fair to hold them to today's standards," said
    Scott Gilmore, the county's planning department permit process
    coordinator.
    Becky Hilburn of the community of Crest, east of San Diego,
    credited her father with selecting a cement-based siding for her
    home when it was built nine years ago. She recalled how he proudly
    pointed a blowtorch at the wall of the then-new home to show how
    safe it would be.
    The taupe-colored siding wasn't even scorched.
    In the October fire, homes made of more combustible materials
    went up in flames on three sides of her house
    "I thank God for a father who planned ahead," she said.
    ---
    Information from: Los Angeles Times

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    Post

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - More than 2,750 inmate firefighters
    helped save homes and lives during last fall's Southern California
    wildfires, working more than 1.7 million hours and saving the state
    several million dollars, according to figures released Monday.
    More than half of the state's 3,800 full-time wildland
    firefighters are Department of Corrections and California Youth
    Authority inmates earning $1 an hour as they work off sentences for
    nonviolent crimes such as theft and drug possession.
    An Assembly resolution praised the firefighters and their
    supervisors at the Corrections and Forestry and Fire Protection
    Departments for working "under the most difficult and dangerous
    conditions," performing duties "that were truly beyond the call
    of duty."
    Two inmates were singled out: Kimberly Willard, who led her team
    to safety as a fire threatened to overtake them; and Kenneth
    Zitter, for leading a crew credited with stopping a blaze.
    "We save million-dollar homes for a dollar an hour," an inmate
    told The Associated Press in November after prisoners trained in
    wildland firefighting wound up battling house fires in San
    Bernardino County.
    The crews are neither trained nor equipped to fight residential
    fires. But the 28-inmate strike team happened to be one of the
    first to arrive and fought wind-whipped blazes with borrowed garden
    hoses and chain saws, rescuing prized possessions from doomed
    homes.

    APTV 04-12-04 1828EDT
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  8. #88
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    Post A major realization in California

    SACRAMENTO (AP) - It's time to acknowledge that fire season
    never ends in Southern California, one of the nation's most
    populous and - after years of drought - driest regions, state
    senators said Tuesday.
    Last year's record wildfires there began in late October, and
    already last month a controlled blaze near Big Bear Lake burned out
    of control in one of the nation's most heavily urbanized forests.
    "The fire season, particularly in Southern California, is a
    year-round affair," said Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny, D-San Diego.
    As a governor-appointed expert panel prepares to release its
    final report on last fall's fires Wednesday, the Senate Natural
    Resources Committee anticipated its recommendations by advancing a
    bill that would spur the California Department of Forestry and Fire
    Protection to keep a full complement of firefighting staff and
    aircraft year-round in the area south of Santa Barbara and the
    Tehachapi mountain range.
    "They have to be there when the fires happen," said Bob Wolf,
    president of the department's firefighters union. Currently, the
    department withdraws the aircraft for servicing during the winter
    and lays off seasonal staff.
    "We've certainly had a fire season in Southern California for
    three winters in a row - extreme fire behavior," said department
    spokeswoman Karen Terrill. She noted that Jim Wright, chief of fire
    protection, told the expert panel the department now is "fighting
    a 12-month fire season with an eight-month budget."
    The bill is one of at least 28 that state lawmakers have
    introduced in response to last fall's devastating fires, several of
    which address problems presented to the expert panel.
    Ducheny's bill also would bump the number of firefighters on the
    state's 325 fire engines from three to four, requiring the
    additional firefighter year-round in Southern California and during
    fire season in the rest of the state. The state once assigned five
    firefighters to each engine, but cut that to two during the state's
    last budget crisis in the early 1990s. Legislation in the late
    1990s increased staffing to the current three.
    Despite the extra cost, supporters, including the CDF
    Firefighters union, contended the extra firefighters would save the
    state millions of dollars in losses by increasing the efficiency of
    each engine between 38 percent and 71 percent.
    The department's recommendations to the expert panel include
    using four firefighters during high fire conditions, and former
    Gov. Gray Davis used an executive order the last three fire seasons
    to let the department add the additional firefighter when
    necessary.
    "We are much more effective with a fourth firefighter on the
    engine," Terrill said, particularly in quickly containing fires
    before they can spread.
    Paying for the state's firefighting is slated to shift this year
    in part to a new $35 per parcel annual fee on rural homeowners,
    designed to raise $50 million that otherwise came from general
    taxes.
    The California Farm Bureau Federation is suing to block the fee,
    but the committee defeated a bill by Sen. Rico Oller, R-San
    Andreas, that would have repealed it.
    Local firefighters complained the state fee makes it make it
    more difficult for the state's 950 local departments that also
    depend on property owners' fees, a concern addressed in a pending
    bill by Sen. Charles Poochigian, R-Fresno, that would exempt
    property owners from the state fee if they also pay a local fee.
    A half-dozen pending bills would give homeowners more
    flexibility in cutting fire breaks or require larger
    vegetation-free zones, including one by Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth
    that would give homeowners exemptions from the California
    Endangered Species Act and the California Environmental Quality Act
    to clear brush and trees up to 300 feet around homes and buildings.
    Hollingsworth, R-El Cajon, also is promoting a bill that would
    permit the use of Proposition 40 bond funds to rebuild historic
    structures including the 1923 Dyar House at Cuyamaca State Park;
    Camp Hual-Cu-Cuish, a camp built by the Civilian Conservation Corps
    during the Depression; and the Goodan Ranch house in Sycamore
    Canyon County Park.
    The Senate Government Operations Committee on Tuesday advanced a
    Hollingsworth bill that would let the state forestry department
    pre-certify military pilots to fight wildfires, similar to programs
    now for National Guard pilots. That bill, too, responds to problems
    Southern California firefighters faced last fall.
    ---
    On the Net:
    Read SB1346, SB1460, SB1498, SB1255, SB1312 and SB1526 at
    www.sen.ca.gov

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    Post

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California must choose between
    protecting the environment or protecting life and property as homes
    spring up in what once were wildland areas in the nation's most
    populous state, a governor's review panel concluded Wednesday in
    the aftermath of last fall's devastating wildfires.
    The failure of state and federal lawmakers and administrations
    to make those tough decisions stalled prevention efforts that were
    and remain the primary hope of stopping wind-driven fires such as
    swept Southern California in October, panel members said.
    Once ignited, weather conditions determine the outcome far more
    than anything firefighters can do, the panel said, though it
    outlined 48 changes that could be made to better prevent and
    respond to wildfires.
    Those include better cooperation and communication between fire
    agencies; more training and improved equipment; quicker use of
    military aircraft; and reconsideration of the sunset deadline for
    launching firefighting aircraft.
    All those responded directly to complaints about how local,
    state and federal agencies handled the firestorms that killed 24
    people in the fires and 16 more in resulting mudslides, destroyed
    more than 3,600 homes and burned nearly 740,000 acres.
    Changes could cost billions of dollars, panel members said as
    they presented their final report, but they said most would be
    nearly useless unless policy makers set a priority of protecting
    life and property over trees, wildlife habitat and other
    environmental concerns.
    "It is essential to understand that unless and until public
    policy makers at all levels of government muster the political will
    to put the protection of life and ... property ahead of competing
    political agendas, these tragedies are sure to continue," said the
    panel's chairman, retired state Sen. William Campbell. Without that
    priority, he said, "anything that we do moneywise is not going to
    be that important."
    His comments were echoed by other panel members and in the
    report itself, though Andrea Tuttle, director of the California
    Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention, and Dallas Jones,
    director of the Office of Emergency Services, said there can be
    common ground between environmentalists and developers.
    Environmentalists, too, recognize that there are benefits to
    thinning forests to prevent high intensity fires, said Tuttle.
    "Stopping growth in those areas is not really an option. But
    doing smart growth in those areas is. It's really up to us," said
    Jones.
    Currently, building and fire codes and firebreak standards vary
    across the state, with some more efficient than others at shielding
    homes from fires.
    Jay Watson, the Wilderness Society's director of wildland fire
    programs, said protecting homes must be a priority, but doesn't
    have to be at the expense of environmental protection.
    Environmental groups generally support fire reduction efforts in
    urban areas, he noted.
    Many of the panel's recommendations repeat previous suggestions
    ignored by policy-makers in previous reports, commission members
    complained, though they promised to reconvene periodically to keep
    driving reforms this time.
    Though the commission suggested the federal government should
    bear more of the cost, it included no price estimates nor funding
    suggestions, which Campbell said could vary widely depending on
    what policy-makers decide.
    Some panel members, for instance, were cool to pending
    legislation by Sen. Nell Soto, D-Pomona, to increase the state
    sales tax by a quarter-percent the next two years to raise $2.6
    billion for fire efforts. Assemblyman Jay LaSuer, R-La Mesa, said
    he has a bill in the works that would raise money for firefighter
    training.
    "California has to reinvest in public safety," said
    Assemblywoman Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego. But San Diego voters
    last month rejected an increase in hotel taxes to pay for emergency
    services.
    Tuttle and Campbell warned that time is critical, with
    conditions unchanged from last year across the Southwest and into
    Southern California. Some steps already are under way, as
    legislative committees this week began considering bills drafted in
    anticipation of the panel's report.
    The 34-member commission of federal, state and local lawmakers
    and emergency officials met seven times across Southern California
    since November after it was created by former Gov. Gray Davis and
    continued by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
    ----
    On the Net:
    Read the report at www.oes.ca.gov
    Read Soto's SB1537 at www.sen.ca.gov

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    TEMECULA, Calif. (AP) - A 2,085-acre wildfire sparked by a motor
    home blaze destroyed two mobile homes and nine vehicles Sunday in
    southern Riverside County, authorities said.
    The blaze also destroyed six outbuildings and threatened about
    400 homes as it burned west of the Lake Riverside community, said
    Lori Hoffmeister, a county fire information spokeswoman. No
    injuries were reported.
    No evacuations were ordered but about 400 homes in the Lake
    Riverside Estates development were threatened Sunday night,
    Hoffmeister said. The fire was about a half-mile from those homes,
    she said.
    About 540 firefighters aided by four helicopters and two air
    tankers had the fire 40 percent contained by Sunday evening. The
    aircraft were grounded at dusk.
    The blaze began when a motor home caught fire shortly after 1
    p.m. Sunday on Highway 371 at Foolish Pleasure Road.
    "The motor home fire caught nearby vegetation on fire,"
    Hoffmeister said.
    Fire investigators were looking into the cause of the motor home
    blaze. Residents in the area east of Temecula and about 100 miles
    east-southeast of downtown Los Angeles said the motor home had
    overheated.
    "Apparently it overheated and then caught fire," said Harriet
    Costo, 74, who watched the blaze from a nearby hill. She said the
    motor home that burned was "about a city block" from her house in
    unincorporated county land off Highway 371 and five miles from the
    community of Aguanga.
    Her son, Tom McGiffin, 53, said he watched the blaze quickly
    jump a road and spread into brush.
    "With the wind, it just took off. I'm surprised it got as big
    as it did," he said.
    McGiffin said firefighters were delayed in arriving in the area.
    "That's typical out here because they have to call the main
    base, notify the fire department, and it's probably ten miles from
    the fire station to here. It's just so rural," he said.
    Capt. Rick Vogt of the California Department of Forestry told
    KCAL-TV a lack of rain made brush and grass in the area "just
    primed for a fire this time of year."
    Mark Moede, a National Weather Service forecaster in San Diego,
    said northeast winds of 10 to 15 mph were expected in the area
    Sunday night. Winds were expected to slow to 5 to 10 mph after
    midnight.
    The wildfire was the largest in Southern California so far this
    year. Six months ago, the region was ravaged by a series of
    firestorms that killed 24 people, destroyed more than 3,600 homes
    and burned nearly 740,000 acres.

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    LOS ANGELES (AP) - A spring heat wave blistered California with
    record temperatures Monday as firefighters kept a close eye on dry
    brush, power officials monitored electricity use, and residents
    sought refuge at beaches and in swimming pools.
    Hundred-degree or greater highs were reported in coastal cities
    as well as through inland valleys and into the desert. Long Beach
    topped out only four degrees under Death Valley's 105.
    The National Weather Service reported 99 degrees in downtown Los
    Angeles, shattering the record of 91 set in 1972. Other records
    included 100 in Santa Maria on the central coast, 91 in San
    Francisco, which usually averages 65 degrees this time of year, and
    93 in San Jose.
    Sacramento hit 98, the capital's hottest April 26 since
    record-keeping began in 1849.
    "I've never been to Death Valley, but I can imagine," said
    office worker Fred Konieczny, 67, perspiring in dark slacks and a
    long sleeve shirt as he walked through downtown Los Angeles.
    A high pressure system and lack of onshore breezes contributed
    to the heat. Forecasters said temperatures in the 80s and 90s would
    continue through Tuesday, but cooler weather would return by the
    end of the week.
    Fire danger was extremely high in Southern California, where a
    group of wildfires burned about 750,000 acres and destroyed more
    than 3,500 homes last fall.
    A 2,083-acre wildfire that had threatened as many as 400 homes
    in southern Riverside County was contained Monday after burning for
    more than a day. The blaze destroyed two mobile homes and nine
    vehicles.
    Fires also were reported in the San Bernardino Mountains and
    along the 710 Freeway but were quickly extinguished.
    Meanwhile, the state agency that manages much of the state's
    power grid called for a low-level alert late Sunday and asked
    people to limit usage of air conditioners, washers and other
    appliances during the peak hours of 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
    People flocked to beaches. Danny Douglas, a lifeguard captain in
    Los Angeles County's Manhattan Beach, said it was crowded for a
    Monday afternoon.
    "It's busy down here. People are in the water cooling off. It's
    a lot like summertime," he said.
    ---
    Associated Press Writers Jeremiah Marquez, Belen Moran in San
    Francisco and Anna Oberthur in Sacramento contributed to the
    report.
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    LAKE ARROWHEAD, Calif. (AP) - Five suspected arson fires this
    week rekindled fears among residents and forest officials already
    working feverishly to avoid a repeat of last fall's deadly
    wildfires near this mountain resort.
    They have good reason to worry: The risk is even greater this
    year.
    Bark beetles preying on drought-weakened pine trees have
    devastated hundreds of thousands of trees in the sprawling San
    Bernardino National Forest, killing nearly half the trees in some
    areas.
    That has left huge sections of the forest ripe for another
    catastrophic blaze.
    "What we are seeing is the death of a forest," said Jack
    Blackwell, forester of the Forest Service's Pacific Southwestern
    region. "If these drought conditions keep up, the entire forest is
    at risk of dying off, and of course this is a huge risk for
    fires."
    Before last year's blazes, at least 40 percent of trees were
    dead on pockets of land that comprised more than one-third of the
    670,000-acre forest, putting them at the highest risk of fire, said
    Forest Service spokesman Rick Alexander.
    If combined, those areas would be larger than New York City.
    Only 7 percent of those dead trees were destroyed last fall,
    when two huge fires blackened more than 160,000 acres, destroyed
    about 1,100 homes and killed six people.
    In the past six months, even more trees have died from drought
    and bark beetle infestation, adding more fuel for another blaze.
    Pockets of dead trees now stretch from the well-populated resort
    communities of Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead in the north to
    Idyllwild in the south.
    The situation has set off a furious effort to cut firebreaks and
    remove as many trees as possible before Southern California's fire
    danger peaks in September. But the process is slow-going and
    expensive.
    "We're still behind, and we're trying to catch up," Alexander
    said.
    Much of the wood is worthless because of the infestation, and
    timber companies run up heavy expenses shipping it to the nearest
    mill more than 200 miles away. In some cases, timber has been
    burned or dumped in landfills.
    The Forest Service is also dousing healthy trees in camping
    areas with insecticide and conducting prescribed burns like one
    that went out of control at Big Bear Lake last month and turned
    into a 350-acre forest fire. The miscue outraged already nervous
    residents.
    Forest dwellers were also unnerved Monday when the suspected
    arson fires struck areas west of Lake Arrowhead. The blazes were
    quickly contained after being confined to grassy areas. No arrests
    have been made.
    The forest's problems began with 19th century logging that
    cleared the way for new trees to grow almost on top of each other.
    In some populated areas, covenants barred removal of trees from
    private property because residents liked the privacy and beauty of
    being surrounded by firs, cedars and pines.
    In recent years, however, the trees have attracted bark beetles,
    which have thrived throughout the West as the result of drought
    that weakened trees, and warming temperatures that allowed more
    reproduction of the insects.
    Tens of millions of trees across the region have been killed.
    Last December, the federal government passed the Healthy Forest
    Restoration Act, which allows more timber and brush to be cut and
    cleared with less environmental scrutiny.
    The Natural Resources Conservation Service is distributing $150
    million to tribes, local governments and others for tree removal
    and other fire prevention efforts in Southern California. The
    Forest Service is providing another $50 million.
    In addition, the Forest Service has been given $40 million on
    top of its normal budget of $4.5 million for fire prevention and
    fuel reduction in Southern California.
    Forest officials said the funding is a good start but not enough
    to remove all the dead trees in the San Bernardino forest.
    Officials are removing what they can, with nervous homeowners
    rushing to join the effort.
    Idyllwild resident Betty Miller and her neighbors have removed
    numerous trees in the past few months. But she has had to wait for
    a contractor to cut back an oak overhanging their home.
    "He's so busy, we're on a waiting list," she said. "It's
    totally unbelievable the amount of trees they're cutting down.
    Properties that you couldn't even see, now it's thinned out. Some
    properties have had all the trees taken off."
    Some observers contend the firebreaks aren't the best way to
    protect communities.
    Tom Bonnicksen, a professor at Texas A&M University and visiting
    scholar for the Forestry Foundation, a nonprofit group supported by
    the timber industry, said there should be only strategic firebreaks
    and more logging deeper in the forest.
    The area also needs a mill that likely won't be built until the
    Forest Service agrees to 10-year logging contracts that provide
    enough time for a company to recoup its investments, Bonnicksen
    said.
    "Even if we remove the dead trees, we still have a very serious
    problem," he said. "The entire forest is at risk whether it has
    dead trees in it or not."
    Blackwell said the Forest Service favors shorter-term contracts
    because the forest might not be able to sustain logging beyond
    that. Environmental groups have also expressed concerns about
    giving the timber industry a long-term foothold.
    Before last year's fires, Big Bear Lake resident Gloria Wilson
    and her husband spent months trying to get permission to remove a
    hollowed-out tree they feared would fall. But when she called the
    fire department about a dead tree a few weeks ago, it was removed
    immediately, along with several others.
    "The next week we were out of town and a neighbor told me they
    were taking one down in a snowstorm," Wilson said. "It says
    they're on top of things."

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    Post May 2nd

    CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) - Three Southern California
    wildfires scorched about 1,600 acres Sunday, prompting dozens of
    residents to evacuate. There were no reports of injuries or
    damages.
    The largest fire parched at least 1,000 acres on the Camp
    Pendleton Marine base.
    Residents who live along the steep slopes of the unincorporated
    De Luz Canyon area, an isolated stretch of homes northeast of the
    base, were asked to leave as a precaution, said Capt. Robert
    Ramirez, of the California Department of Forestry and Fire
    Protection. Officials from at least 10 agencies and three
    helicopters were on the scene.
    "It's high heat and low humidity - that's our enemy," said
    Ramirez.
    Officials said the cause of the Pendleton fire was unknown. Matt
    Streck, a department spokesman, said fires at the base are usually
    caused by ammunition. Messages to Camp Pendleton were not
    immediately returned.
    Last October, a fire sparked by ammunition during military
    exercises at Camp Pendleton burned more than 4,000 acres. Shortly
    after that blaze was subdued, a spate of devastating firestorms
    claimed 24 lives, destroyed 3,600 homes and burned 740,000 acres in
    Southern California.
    Elsewhere in Southern California, the Eagle fire burned about
    500 acres in Wolf Valley, southeast of Temecula. By late afternoon,
    16 engines, two hand crews, one air attack plane, one dozer and 160
    firefighters were on the scene.
    The fire threatened an undetermined number of homes, but was not
    yet close to them, said Engineer Rick Griggs of the Riverside
    County Fire Department. No evacuations were reported.
    A third fire, just east of Lake Elsinore in Riverside County,
    spread to 75 acres late Sunday, prompting 45 people to evacuate
    voluntarily.
    The fire was being battled by six hand crews, 21 fire engines,
    four water tenders, five overhead personnel and 120 fire personnel.
    The official start of wildfire season, set to begin Monday, was
    called three weeks early amid concerns about lower rainfall and
    bark beetles infestation destroying trees in the San Bernardino
    National Forest.
    The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which
    covers San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties, will add
    1,500 firefighters statewide to its current force of 7,000 and
    increase the amount of equipment it sends to individual incidents.
    It will also suspend certain burn and campfire permits.

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    TEMECULA, Calif. (AP) - Southern California's 2004 fire season
    opened Monday with firefighters battling blazes that covered more
    than 5,500 acres and forced hundreds of people to evacuate.
    The largest was a 2,500-acre fire in Riverside County. But five
    other blazes were scattered across Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and
    San Diego counties, as temperatures climbed to over 100 degrees in
    some places.
    Several firefighters among the thousands on the job were treated
    for injuries, including heat stroke, dehydration and smoke
    inhalation.
    Authorities ordered a mandatory evacuation of several homes in
    the path of the Riverside County fire in the hills south of
    Temecula. They previously advised residents of about 100 homes to
    evacuate.
    The blaze destroyed a home and a research facility used by
    researchers at the University of California, Riverside.
    "They are just totally burned to the ground. All that's left is
    a couple of pieces of steel," said Rick Cook, emergency services
    coordinator for Riverside County. Witnesses said other homes in the
    area also burned, but fire officials said they would not be
    releasing new structure damage information until Tuesday morning.
    Mike Witham, 57, fled his trailer in the area in a pickup truck
    loaded with his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and black Labrador
    Oscar.
    He said he stopped to help rescue dogs in the area but winds
    blew flames across both sides of state Highway 79, trapping him
    along with Temecula police officers and firefighters. They waited
    for four hours inside a nearby home as firefighters battled back
    the blaze, he said.
    "I will tell you, I was one scared puppy," Witham said.
    He said he saw at least three sheds and three or four mobile
    homes burn. "You could hear the propane tanks exploding," he
    said. Fire officials could not immediately confirm the damage.
    Three additional fires burned in Riverside County. A 400-acre
    blaze in the El Cerrito area destroyed an abandoned building and
    threatened a number of homes Monday evening. A blaze north of
    Temecula burned 400 acres but was expected to be fully contained by
    Monday evening.
    Elsewhere, a fire in the Los Padres National Forest, in Santa
    Barbara County, grew to about 100 acres within two hours.
    Firefighters had about 75 percent containment on a 50-acre blaze
    that broke near a Los Angeles County jail in Castaic, said fire
    Capt. Mark Savage.
    Firefighters said they managed to slow a blaze that burned 1,825
    acres near the Camp Pendleton Marine base in San Diego County. It
    was about 75 percent contained, with no structures damaged and no
    injuries reported.
    A fire that started Sunday just east of Lake Elsinore in
    Riverside County had scorched 350 acres, and was about 75 percent
    contained by Monday evening. One structure was burned.
    The start of the fire season was declared three weeks earlier
    than last year because of dry weather and a tree-killing bark
    beetle infestation.
    ---
    On the Net:
    National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov/

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    Post May 5th Evening update

    LOS ANGELES, May 5 (Reuters) - Cooler, less breezy weather
    helped firefighters battling six wildfires in southern
    California on Wednesday but more than 1,000 homes were at risk
    in an early start to the fire season.
    "It is cooler today than earlier in the week and the winds
    appear to be calm," said Ron Gill, spokesman for Riverside
    County Fire Department where some 2,000 firefighters are
    struggling to contain the two biggest blazes in mountain
    communities south-east of Los Angeles.
    Fanned by record-breaking temperatures of more than 100
    degrees Fahrenheit (38 C) and a sixth successive year of
    drought, the six fires have scorched more than 20,000 acres
    (8,000 hectares) in the past four days.
    Sixteen homes have been destroyed and families were ordered
    out of another 1,000 homes in the Cerritos fire near Corona on
    Tuesday. The blaze was only 30 percent contained on Wednesday.
    But fire officials made headway against an 8,800-acre
    (3,560-hectare) blaze near Temecula which was 60 percent
    contained on Wednesday. "There are not so many structures in
    that area so we made real good progress with fire operations
    rather than focusing on protecting property," Gill said.
    A smaller brush fire on the U.S. Marine base Camp Pendleton
    north of San Diego was reported fully contained on Wednesday.
    No structures were burned and no injuries reported.
    Hot and dry conditions last year touched off 14 major
    wildfires in Southern California's mountain ranges, killing 24
    people, destroying more than 3,700 homes and charring about
    750,000 acres (303,500 hectares).
    Fire officials said only a fraction of the dead trees that
    fueled last year's firestorms had been consumed, leaving plenty
    of dry tinder for new fires.
    The Cerritos fire is thought to have been started by a man
    seen dragging a large piece of steel behind a vehicle that sent
    sparks into nearby dry brush. The man has been arrested.
    Meanwhile in Arizona, a controlled burn near the south rim
    of the Grand Canyon jumped fire lines and spread, charring 100
    acres (40 hectares) and throwing heavy smoke into the air
    during a busy time for tourists visiting the national park.
    The fire burned through ponderosa pine, briefly closing two
    entrances to the canyon and prompting voluntary evacuations of
    a portion of Grand Canyon Village as about 80 firefighters
    fought to bring the blaze under control.

    Reut20:56 05-05-04
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    A look at fires across Southern California:

    RIVERSIDE COUNTY:
    - The Eagle Fire south of Temecula scorched more than 8,945
    acres and was 70 percent contained Wednesday evening. At least 41
    structures were destroyed, including 14 homes. An evacuation order
    forcing hundreds of people from their homes was lifted, but road
    closures prevented them from returning until Thursday morning. Six
    firefighters suffered minor injuries. The fire broke out Sunday.
    Containment was expected Thursday evening. Cost of response nearly
    $2.3 million.
    - The Cerrito Fire between Corona and Lake Elsinore spread
    across 16,460 acres after breaking out Monday afternoon east of
    Interstate 15. Six structures were destroyed, including two
    unoccupied motor homes. The blaze was 65 percent contained
    Wednesday. It continued to threaten 1,000 homes, 12 commercial
    buildings and 300 outbuildings, though evacuation orders were
    lifted Wednesday evening. Eight firefighters suffered minor
    injuries. CDF officials arrested Richard Drew Brown late Monday on
    two felony counts of "recklessly causing the fire with
    equipment." It has cost $1.25 million to respond.
    SAN DIEGO COUNTY:
    - The India Fire on the Camp Pendleton Marine base scorched
    2,050 acres and was about 100 percent contained Wednesday morning,
    with no structures damaged and no injuries reported. The fire
    started Sunday.
    SANTA BARBARA COUNTY:
    - The Cachuma Fire that started Monday on private property on
    Figueroa Mountain covered more than 1,110 acres by Tuesday. The
    fire in the Los Padres National Forest destroyed a trailer and more
    than 30 vehicles at the Red Rock Mine, which is no longer in
    operation. The blaze was 10 percent contained Tuesday. Three people
    at the former mine suffered minor injuries.

    (Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

    AP-NY-05-05-04 2328EDT
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    Post May 6th

    CORONA, Calif. (AP) - Firefighters expressed relief Thursday
    after cooler weather helped them tame wildfires that erupted
    unseasonably early this week, burning across nearly 29,000 acres of
    Southern California brushlands and forest.
    Temperatures dropped and gusts slowed during the week, allowing
    firefighters to tighten control lines and lift evacuation orders
    for residents near two destructive blazes in Riverside County.
    Together, the two fires scorched more than 25,000 acres and damaged
    or destroyed dozens of structures in the inland region east of Los
    Angeles.
    "Morale was boosted when the cooler weather came in,
    absolutely," said Jim Boano of the California Department of
    Forestry. "This early in the season, it's always nice to have any
    help we can get because it's going to be a long season."
    The wildfire season was declared open on Monday, three weeks
    earlier than last year, when deadly blazes destroyed thousands of
    homes and didn't end until February.
    The nearly 16,500-acre Cerrito Fire in Riverside County was 90
    percent contained, and officials expected to have it fully
    surrounded by Friday night.
    The other big Riverside County blaze, the 8,900-acre Eagle Fire
    south of Temecula, was 85 percent contained, with full containment
    expected late Thursday. The blaze destroyed 41 structures,
    including 14 homes.
    Evacuation orders were lifted Wednesday as firefighters gained
    the upper hand, allowing hundreds of people to return to their
    homes near the two blazes.
    Firefighters also made headway in shoring up lines around a fire
    burning in Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles, in Los
    Padres National Forest. The 1,127-acre Cachuma Fire was 75 percent
    contained Thursday night.
    The fire, which broke out on Monday, only increased by about 17
    acres between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, and full
    containment was expected Saturday, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Ed
    Linquist said.
    "It's all about the weather," he said. "The weather played
    into our hands, and the people on the ground took full advantage of
    it."
    The Cachuma fire burned one residence and more than 30 vehicles.
    ---
    On the Net:
    National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov

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    Post

    By ELLIOT SPAGAT
    Associated Press Writer
    SAN DIEGO (AP) - Southern California's wildfire season got off
    to a harrowing start this week that demonstrated all too clearly
    that the state still faces many of the same problems it did during
    last fall's catastrophic fires.
    A half-million acres of bug-infested, tinder-dry trees have yet
    to be removed. Firefighting agencies are still understaffed and
    short on cash.
    Inconsistent building codes in fire-prone areas continue to put
    homes at risk. Confusion persists about the rules for when to
    activate military aircraft. And incompatible communication networks
    prevent firefighters from talking to each other.
    "To put firefighters on the ground and aircraft in the air
    means money, and there is no new money," said Charles Maner, chief
    of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in San
    Diego.
    This week's fires have blackened more than 29,000 acres and
    forced hundreds to flee their homes, mostly in Riverside County,
    east of Los Angeles. Those areas were largely unscathed by last
    year's blazes, which killed 24 people, destroyed 3,631 homes and
    charred nearly 750,000 acres.
    Firefighters aided by milder weather had the upper hand on the
    fires Thursday, but officials are bracing for a long and dangerous
    summer, in part because of extremely hot and dry weather lately.
    "I think we're sitting on a powder keg," said John Hawkins, a
    senior Forestry Department commander in San Diego during last
    year's fires who has since joined the Riverside County Fire
    Department.
    Officials note several improvements this season, including
    better training for military pilots and new computerized systems to
    warn residents of fires. San Diego banned new homes with
    wood-shingled roofs, and federal officials Wednesday relaxed rules
    for sending millions of dollars to remove dead trees in three
    at-risk counties. The money has yet to be given out, however.
    But many vulnerabilities - highlighted in a report last month by
    a commission formed after last year's fires - are only slowly being
    addressed.
    The report recommended clearer rules on using federal military
    aircraft. Critics argued that last year's fires would have done
    less damage if the aircraft had been dispatched sooner. Rep. Duncan
    Hunter, who lost his home in the fires, waited 22 hours for two
    tankers that he requested, and then-Gov. Gray Davis' office met
    similar delays.
    The report also urged reconsideration of California's rule
    against using firefighting aircraft after sunset. The deadliest of
    last year's fires was believed to have been started by a lone
    hunter in San Diego County who sent a distress signal about a
    half-hour before nightfall.
    The Forestry Department is reviewing restrictions on night
    flying and expects to reach a decision soon, said Jim Wright,
    deputy director of operations.
    The report also recommended better cooperation and communication
    among fire agencies and makes several big-ticket requests,
    including staffing of all engines with more firefighters and
    acquiring 150 more fire engines. Communication is a problem because
    the state's many fire agencies do not operate on the same radio
    frequency.
    The dangers appear especially acute in San Diego County. The
    City Council shelved measures such as brush-clearance rules and
    replacement of existing wood-shingled roofs. The proposals, which
    were backed by the fire chief, were considered too expensive for
    homeowners.
    San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob has met resistance to
    her proposal for a regional firefighting authority. The county has
    about 60 firefighting agencies, some of them volunteer forces that
    rely on pancake breakfasts to pay the bills. Wright called it a
    "hodgepodge" arrangement.
    "Lots of people don't want to give up their kingdom to go into
    coordinated entity," he said.
    Dan Fierro, who saw flames Tuesday night from his hilltop home
    in Riverside County, said he has been thinking about clearing dry
    brush from around his house.
    "But I really haven't done anything to prepare," he said.
    "But it's definitely in my mind as something we need to do."

    (Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

  19. #99
    Sr. Information Officer NJFFSA16's Avatar
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    Post June 6

    GAVIOTA, Calif. (AP) - Hundreds of residents in Southern
    California evacuated from a wildfire that has burned about 7,500
    acres were allowed to return to their homes Sunday night,
    authorities said.
    The Santa Barbara County fire was about 20 percent contained and
    could be slowed down by a moist low pressure system expected to
    drift into the region, said Barry Peckham, spokesman for the Los
    Padres National Forest.
    The evacuation order was lifted Sunday night and a roughly
    3-mile-long stretch of Highway 101 partially reopened after an
    earlier closure, Peckham said.
    He said one home was destroyed and three outbuildings have been
    damaged. Two oil refineries were threatened, but undamaged. The
    fire also damaged train trestles owned by Union Pacific Railway
    between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.
    There were no reports of any injuries.
    The blaze threatened 150 homes in the gated community of
    Hollister Ranch, as people were also ordereo leave three state
    beaches, said Jan Purkett, a spokeswoman for the county fire
    department. About 500 people in the community were evacuated.
    The fire broke out before noon Saturday in a section of the
    Gaviota Pass, about 27 miles north of Santa Barbara, and burned
    across narrow canyons and steep hillsides covered with chaparral.
    The cause was under investigation.

    APTV 06-06-04 2307EDT
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

  20. #100
    Sr. Information Officer NJFFSA16's Avatar
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    Post

    SACRAMENTO (AP) - Summer heat brings fire season, and a warning
    from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection that
    90 percent of wildfires are caused by people.
    The department, charged with protecting over 31 million acres of
    forest and open space, reminds residents that restrictions may be
    imposed in the coming months on a variety of activities including
    campfires and agricultural burns. Landowners living in rural areas
    are also advised to be careful when using chain saws, weed trimmers
    and even lawn mowers because each is capable of inadvertently
    starting fires.
    Each year, the department's firefighters, fire engines and
    aircraft respond to an average of 6,300 wildfires each year. An
    average of 144,000 acres is burned each year in California's
    forests and wildlands.

    (Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

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