The largest community evacuations in San Diego
County's history were under way today as two massive fires continued to push
through the region, devastating neighborhood after neighborhood.
Residents living north of State Route 56, west of Interstate 15 and east
of I-5 were advised to pack up and clear out of their homes, even before
receiving a phone call directing them to do so.
By late morning, authorities had issued 120,000 reverse 911 phone calls,
under a system that informs people about evacuation plans. Unofficial
estimates put the number of evacuated people at as many as a quarter-million.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who declared a state of emergency yesterday
afternoon in San Diego and a handful of other Southern California counties,
announced his intention to visit the stricken region today to survey the
San Diego Fire Chief Tracy Jarman announced that help was on the way in
the form of 1,000 fire engines, coming from all over. Her department was
stretched thin, with 360 firefighters and 75 engine companies working the fire,
leaving only 40 personnel to handle any other emergency that might present
Officials had no precise count of lost homes, but County Fire
Coordinator Chief Bill Metcalfe said the areas with the most damage were the
southern portions of Escondido, Rancho Bernardo, north Poway and the 4S Ranch
Sheriff Bill Kolender stressed that people should limit their cellular
telephone use to prevent system overloads that could hamper emergency
The sheriff also urged people to promptly obey evacuation orders, noting
that some firefighters were called off the front lines overnight to herd
people out of harm's way.
"Realize that your life is more important than any property you have,"
Two of the two biggest blazes burning in the county -- the Witch Creek
and San Pasqual Valley fires -- merged this morning, creating a unified front
in the North County.
Two other blazes -- the Coronado Valley Fire and the Rice Canyon Fire in
Fallbrook -- had died down as of midday. Metcalfe stressed, however, that
those fires were not out and could begin burning in earnest again, depending on
Together, the two biggest blazes -- the Witch Creek Fire and the so-
called Harris Fire, which was burning near the border -- had scorched a total
of about 30,000 acres by midmorning. Both were burning out of control.
"The situation is worse than any of us could have imagined," Metcalfe
Mayor Jerry Sanders urged residents of potentially affected areas to
"have your car packed right now."
Residents were told told to go to Qualcomm Stadium if headed east or to
the Del Mar fairgrounds if headed west.
The mayor's office put out a call to public to help provide for the
evacuees at the Friars Road sports arena. The following items, which should be
taken to the stadium's "P" gate, are needed: tents, cots, water, blankets and
Click to view image: '110798-Original.jpg'
|Liveleak on Facebook|