Fires Push 500,000 From Their Homes

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New evacuations are being ordered in southern California, where wildfires have burned more than 640 square miles. One official says the fires could reach the ocean before it's over.


But first, here's the BPP's big old story.

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: The largest evacuation in California history - about a half a million people - is underway as the wildfires torching the southern part of the state enter a fourth day.


Five people in the San Diego area have died. More than three dozen have been injured, including at least 18 firefighters. More than 600 square miles have burned, consuming more than a thousand homes. When I hear that stat about square miles, I never know how to contextualize it. Think of it this way: Manhattan is 23 square miles. This fire is 25 times the size of Manhattan.

STEWART: As the fires have flared, so have tempers. Some residents told the L.A. Times that they watched their houses burn with no fire trucks in sight. Orange County officials say it's a lack of resources.

PESCA: Brian Savage from the Culver City Fire Department blamed clutter left in homeowners' yards for fueling the fire. Here's a quote from Savage: "That stuff starts burning and it's right up next to the house. They just don't get it. We can't be at every house. It's frustrating.

STEWART: Now, the Internet seems to be a place where people can get some control and find their own solutions by using the micro-blog Twitter to let friends now where they are - and even Craigslist to help find help or housing. A couple, Robert and Marie from San Diego posted this message, we can help a couple or small family with up to two kids; have one bedroom with a private bathroom available in our condo.

PESCA: One person offered a thousand dollar reward for family photos stolen from a car during evacuation. He wrote, thieves, if you are reading this, just let us know where you dumped this stuff. No questions asked. There is a huge sentimental value to the letters and pictures. They are priceless to our family, not to you.

STEWART: We'll talk to a Craigslist poster just a moment who needed help evacuating 62 animals.

As for the blogs, Jim wrote ForbesOnTech about his evacuation: While I may appear to be like some grisly, old, super salty vet, I'm not a least bit ashamed to admit that I'm very afraid I was being seriously burned.

PESCA: I would think. But there is some optimism just from a meteorology standpoint. This whole fire is fueled by the strong and dry Santa Ana winds. They've been a force in spreading the fires. Those winds are expected to subside in the next few days.

STEWART: President Bush plans to visit the region tomorrow.

PESCA: And that is today's BPP big story.

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