Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Southern California Fires

"Around 1,000 homes, 300,000 acres burned in San Diego County, Supervisor Ron Robert says"

News from San Diego...

Seasonal wind gusts drive flames across S. California

The devastating firestorms whipping through San Diego County are being fueled by Santa Ana winds with a ferocity rarely seen in this region.

It was worse elsewhere in Southern California. A gust of 112 mph was recorded two days ago at Laguna Peak, north of Los Angeles. Locally, gusts in Potrero, near the deadly Harris fire, peaked at 69 mph.

“For San Diego County to see gusts up to 60 mph, that's a major event,” said National Weather Service forecaster Brandt Maxwell.

There may be more to come. Although winds are expected to start easing this afternoon, it is early in the Santa Ana season.

Santa Anas are fairly common in October, but the prime months are December and January. No one is saying the winter winds will be as strong as this week's blasts, but they should be more frequent, said Stuart Seto, a forecaster in the weather service's Oxnard office....

Exacerbating the situation are the fires themselves. Fires can create their own winds, Seto said. The bigger a fire gets, the more oxygen it needs to feed itself, which can increase wind speeds even more.

Orange and San Diego counties call for more evacuations overnight

Wind-whipped firestorms destroyed more than 700 homes and businesses in Southern California on Monday, the second day of its onslaught, and more than half a million people in San Diego County were told to evacuate their homes.

The gale-force winds turned hillside canyons into giant blowtorches from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border. Although the worst damage was around San Diego and Lake Arrowhead, dangerous fires also threatened Malibu, parts of Orange and Ventura counties, and the Agua Dulce area near Santa Clarita. New evacuations came overnight in Orange and San Diego counties, as the menacing winds refused to abate.

Late Monday night, new blazes threatened homes near Stevenson Ranch and in Soledad Canyon in northern Los Angeles County. The Soledad Canyon fire burned multiple mobile homes and evacuations were underway, fire officials said.

On Monday, near Malibu, where fire Sunday had burned into the center of town, the focus was in the hills, where firefighters on the ground and in the air were trying to prevent flames from marching across Las Flores Canyon and into Topanga Canyon.

"It's trying to move toward Topanga Canyon, parallel to the coastline," said Manhattan Beach Battalion Chief Frank Chiella, near the Rambla Pacifico area. Firefighters were attempting to stay ahead of the fire and funnel it toward the ocean.

"If you let it get wide, that's a lot more homes it could take out," Chiella said. "We're doing what we can to keep it from getting bigger; we've only lost one home today."

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- Firefighters hold their ground in Lake Forest
- Planning ahead and knowing what to take
- What your fire insurance and FEMA can do
- Massive evacuations ordered as onslaught of fires spreads
- Malibu residents see beauty in the face of destruction
- Fires in Malibu ignite rage on the Web
- First-time homeowner ready to 'go down with his ship'
- In Topanga Canyon, watching, waiting . . . writing
- Local TV dials into fire news
- Disaster relief groups seek volunteers
- In San Diego, echoes of the 2003 disaster
- Shaken but vowing to rebuild
- Life in fire zone carries on close to normal
- San Diego at the mercy of flames once again
- Control is elusive on many fronts

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