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Thousands Flee Fires in California

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Thousands Flee Fires in California

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Thousands Flee Fires in California

Thousands Flee Fires in California

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At least one person is dead from the wildfires raging in parts of southern California, and dozens more injured. The blazes have destroyed an estimated 655 homes burned and 168 businesses.

ALISON STEWART, host:

President Bush declared a state of emergency for seven fire-ravaged counties in Southern California, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has called up fifteen hundred National Guard to help firefighters battle at least 15 wildfires.

BURBANK: The flames have destroyed at least 700 homes and businesses, and more than a quarter million people have been told to evacuate in San Diego County alone, as wind-driven wildfires continue to spread. About 370 square miles are burning from the Mexican Border to Santa Barbara County, which is north of Los Angeles.

STEWART: At least 16 firefighters and 25 others have been reported injured since the fires began Sunday. One person was killed.

BURBANK: Hot, dry Santa Ana winds gusting up to 70 miles an hour have been fueling the fires. The winds are expected to subside tonight.

STEWART: Joining us now live from San Diego County to update us on the fires is Captain Don Camp from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Captain Camp, what's the latest effort to get these fires under control? Are any of them under control?

Captain DON CAMP (Spokesman, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection): Currently, right now, here in San Diego County, we are battling three active fires. One of the fires, the Harris Fire, we have approximately 5 percent contain on. The second and third fires, being the Witch and the Rice incident, have zero containment on both of those.

STEWART: How many men do you have out there working?

Capt. CAMP: Currently, we have just about over - just slightly over a thousand personnel split up among the three fires. Additionally, we just were advised of a new fire in the county on the La Jolla Indian Reservation. Apparently, a structure there became involved in fire and has extended into the wild land. Reports from the scene indicate that approximately 150 acres have been consumed so far, and the fire is running to the west with a very rapid rate of spread.

STEWART: You're a smart man. You used the word personnel. I'm going to remember that, Captain Camp.

BURBANK: Yeah.

STEWART: In terms of what you're telling homeowners in the area, what advice are you giving them?

Capt. CAMP: We currently have mandatory evacuations for the Harris Fire in the areas of Lyons Valley, Skyline Truck Trail, Jamul, the Barona Indian Reservation and casino area, and Spring Valley. Additionally, the Witch Fire has established itself in Wildcat Canyon, and we have initiated mandatory evacuations in the Wildcat Canyon and the Moose Valley area.

BURBANK: It sounds like the Santa Anas are supposed to subside a little bit tonight, but other than that, what's the weather forecast?

Capt. CAMP: Well, we were actually hoping that that was going to occur approximately 6 p.m. this evening. The National Weather Service extended the red flag fire warning for this current weather pattern. And we're anticipating the Santa Anas to remain for an additional 24 hours and not taper off until Wednesday afternoon or Wednesday evening.

STEWART: Captain Don Camp, from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. I know you have a difficult day ahead of you. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us here at NPR.

Capt. CAMP: Thank you. You folks have a good day.

BURBANK: And that is today's BPP Big Story. Now, let's get the rest of the news from our own Rachel Martin.

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