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Wildfire forces 20,000 evacuations near San Diego

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Wildfires pushed by gusty winds chewed through canyons parched by California's drought, prompting evacuation orders for more than 20,000 homes on the outskirts of San Diego and another 1,200 homes and businesses in Santa Barbara County 250 miles to the north.

No homes were reported damaged in either fire, but hundreds were considered threatened. The rugged terrain and unseasonably warm temperatures made firefighting even more difficult.

The flames that erupted in the fire-prone Rancho Bernardo area of San Diego quickly grew to 700 acres, driven by hot, dry Santa Ana winds that whipped through areas dotted by hilltop estates and pricey new housing tracts.

Black and gray smoke billowed over the area, filled with whirling ash and embers that created small spot fires. Flames crept within yards of some homes before firefighters doused them.

On one road, people on bicycles and skateboards stopped to watch as a plane dumped water on flames a half-mile away. At least two high schools and three elementary schools were evacuated.

Cameron Stout, filling his tank at a gas station, got a text from his wife shortly after noon saying that she was packing up and leaving with the family's pictures, laptops and other valuables. Their next-door neighbor's home burned in a fire 15 years ago, he said.

"This area's been through this before," he said. "I thought the recent rains would have prevented this from happening. But after a couple days of 100 degrees, it's reversed all that."

Katy Ghasemi, 14, was held for hours in her high school classroom before the school let the children go home. Students studied, ate lunch, did yoga and looked out the windows at the fire.

"There were a lot of flames. Some were right near the front gate," she said.

Chuck Dawson said firefighters saved his home.

"The heat is ferocious as you get close to it. In fact, it probably came within 25 feet of our house," he told KNSD-TV (http://bit.ly/1nKiY94 ). "Luckily, we had about 30 firemen who barricaded it, and it burned all the way around, but we're safe."

Another fire in southern San Diego County destroyed a mobile home before it was extinguished.

Meanwhile, in the Santa Barbara County community of Lompoc, 1,200 homes and businesses were under an evacuation order from a fire that quickly grew to more than 500 acres.

There were downed power lines and heavy brush in the area, said David Sadecki of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Chrissy Cabral, 57, rounded up friends to help her remove 19 head of cattle she keeps at a local ranch after the fire shifted directions. She said firefighters warned her: "Get out now."

"I was probably half a mile away from the side of it, but unfortunately for me ... the winds twisted and blew it back on top of me," she said.

"It was very high flames, very dark," she added.

The group used trailers to move the cows 5 miles away, a repeat of 10 years ago when a fire roared through the area and burned her corral, Cabral said.

A half-dozen other blazes statewide all remained small, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Record high temperatures were predicted throughout much of California for the next two days. San Diego's high of 94 on Tuesday tied a 1979 record.

The combination of high heat, low relative humidity and Southern California's notoriously gusty Santa Ana winds prompted Los Angeles and neighboring cities to activate parking restrictions in certain areas to make sure emergency vehicles could get through if fires erupted in dry brush.

Months of drought have left much of the landscape ready to burn. Downtown Los Angeles has recorded just 6.08 inches of precipitation with little time left in the July 1-June 30 rain year. That's less than half its annual average rainfall.

"Fire season last year never really ended in Southern California," Berlant said. His agency has responded to more than 1,350 fires since Jan. 1, compared with an average of 700 by this time of year.

Join the discussion

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lmire13671 May 14 2014 at 4:09 PM

Just heard from my daughter it was 96degs in Santa Barbara at 1.00.p.m. Louisiana on the other hand is at 65 degs. right now.3.10.p.m. Unbelievable!!

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1 reply
heldjav lmire13671 May 14 2014 at 6:26 PM

Agua Dolce Dad
I blame all the various organized religious sects that teach their disciples that it is their duty to go forth and multiply. There are ten times as many people living in Agua Dolce canyon than the annual rainfall can supply.
Father of one, Grandfather of two, Great Grandfather of two. No multiplication, no addition, just replacement.

How many believe it is their Christian duty to overpopulate the Earth?

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1 reply
evnsaffl heldjav May 14 2014 at 6:54 PM

Pure bigotry.

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Fltz24 May 14 2014 at 10:51 AM

Has anyone noticed the world population in 1910 was one billion, and now is seven billion? That number includes two world wars.

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1 reply
fullsrvlaw Fltz24 May 14 2014 at 11:11 AM

Shhhh...we are not supposed to talk about population control in the world because of all the religions that advocate unchecked births worldwide and are against birth control.

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San Diego Lifeguard May 14 2014 at 10:34 AM

This was a very small fire, and we had a tremendous amount of resource to fight it. Wildfire comes with the location you build in. However San Diego County has the nations most stringent regulations and it shows.

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napa422 May 14 2014 at 10:17 AM


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2 replies
Linda napa422 May 14 2014 at 10:19 AM

You're silly.

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MICHAEL napa422 May 14 2014 at 10:30 AM

apparently so are the days of the christians getting stamped out by tornados

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1 reply
Happypoolprune MICHAEL May 14 2014 at 2:35 PM

Just because napa422 has to act like an idiot - doesn't mean you have to also - or does it?

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b_grossman1 May 14 2014 at 10:02 AM

why aren't these trees cut down and put to good use before the fires...oh, the environmentalist said it was a no no...oh I see!

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4 replies
bmeyer4426 May 14 2014 at 9:37 AM

If they would shut off the valves that are putting fresh water back into the sea, they wouldn't be having a water shortage.

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3 replies
z5catman May 14 2014 at 9:35 AM

Just another typical summer day in sunny California. Just too many homes built in fire prone areas. Problem is that most of Calif is a fire prone area.

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1 reply
nuttberry z5catman May 14 2014 at 9:53 AM

Not typical summer weather, this is Fall weather and the fires happen after a long dry summer. We've had very little rain this winter and two Santa Anas in the last week - that is unusual for this time of year.

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2 replies
THE GREAT ONE nuttberry May 14 2014 at 10:02 AM

unusal but nothing new

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Christopher nuttberry May 14 2014 at 11:02 AM

must be climate change ...lol

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SRJimVal2 May 14 2014 at 7:58 AM

All that nice wood going to waste, what a shame. If the forestry commission had done selective harvesting and used that nice wood for the benefit of the housing industry, many people would not be homeless and the fire would never have spread like it is and has been doing for a 100 years. Subdivide the forests with selected paths to block the spread of fire and harvest the wood, or watch it go up in smoke, just like it is. Fools!!

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4 replies
patrickliveshere May 14 2014 at 7:32 AM

It's CA. Home of the ultra liberals, not allowing clear cutting of old growth tember, etc.

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6 replies
fitzbeerman May 14 2014 at 7:27 AM

When the liberal tree huggers refuse to allow mother nature to control things the way it was intended, then this happens and they all blame global warming. Just let nature do it the way it has for the entire time the planet has been here and shut the hell up.

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3 replies
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