Southern California Wildfires Burn On

I’ve been covering the Southern California wildfires here on The Dem Daily, since Sunday night. At first, like many who live here in SoCal, I thought the winds would die down and the firefighters would be able to bring the first few fires under control. No such luck, the fires rage on and the evacuations continue. The caption on the photo below describes the conditions:

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I just received word a while ago, that Senator Dianne Feinstein was speaking on the Senate floor about the wildfires, I’ll have more on that when available.  In the meantime, here’s the lates news on the wildfires, moving fast and furiously across Southern California.

CNN reports:

More than a half million people had been ordered from San Diego County homes Tuesday as wildfires rage from the Mexican border to north of Los Angeles.

Across Southern California, more than 1,300 homes had been reduced to ashes, officials said Tuesday.

Fears grew north of Los Angeles that the winds may fan three wildfires into one monster blaze, with too few resources available to fight it.

Those fires threaten more than 56,000 homes.

In San Diego County, at least 512,000 residents had been ordered to find refuge in shelters, schools and stadiums as fires pushed into new areas Tuesday.

San Diego Fire Battalion Chief Bruce Cartelli said, “It will not end … until it reaches the ocean or the winds turn around.” And firefighters can expect “no break from the winds fueling the fires until midday Thursday, said Harvey Johnson, deputy administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”

Since Sunday, when the Malibu fire brike out in the early morning, “at least 17 wildfires have scorched about 425 square miles from north of Los Angeles to southeast of San Diego since the weekend. Three of those fires were added to the list Tuesday.”

With five of San Diego’s “23 emergency shelters” reaching their capacity on Monday evening,  the “U.S. Navy ordered sailors out of barracks and onto ships to make room for evacuees.” AP News has a piece on the situation at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego which compares the conditions there to the “Hurricane Katrina evacuees two years earlier.” Will Bunch of Attytood opines on the AP story: “Ain’t that America: Rich evacuees, poor evacuees.”

The L.A. Times is reporting that a second person has died in the wildfires, “this one in the Santa Clarita area north of Los Angeles.” The number of injuries reported since the fires began “also grew, to more than four dozen civilians and firefighters.”

Estimates of the monetary losses start in the tens of millions, and the cost of fighting the fires was expected to at least match that number. Help was on the way after the White House declared a state of emergency, clearing the way for additional federal aid.

Yes, Bush has promised aid for the victims of the wildfires (of course we all know Katrina victims are still standing in line waiting for help):

Bush briefly departed from his scheduled war on terror speech at the National Defense University to offer prayers for those losing houses and businesses—or about to.

“All of us across this nation are concerned for the families who have lost their homes and the many families who have been evacuated from their homes,” he said. “We send the help of the federal government.”

In Malibu, the wildfires are threatening the homes of the stars. And Access Hollywood reports:

Media mogul David Geffen owns the Malibu Beach Inn. As a result of the fires, Geffen has opened its doors to evacuees and firefighters alike, free of charge. Eighty firefighters have been sleeping at the property in shifts, as they fight the blaze.

“Mr. Geffen thought the best thing to do was to open it up to the people taking care of all the homes,” Malibu Beach Inn Managing Director Alan Goldschneider told Access. “We’re feeding [the firefighters]. They’re coming in, in like batches for six hours, and then they leave and another crew comes in immediately, they go out and another crew comes in.

As some readers may remember I housesit occassionally in Malibu for a friend who owns a condo there. Last I heard, yesterday they were still out of the fire zone.

Los Angeles area NBC station KNBC has a galleries of images from the fires here,  and the L.A. Times has a Breaking News Blog with running updates on the fires, live stream video and a link to this interactive Google Map.

In the blogosphere:

The high temperatures and strong winds are expected to continue through at least Wednesday night. Once they break, firefighters will remain on the front lines for days. I’ll have another update here later in the day.

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(Top photo edited from MSNBC cover photo)

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