From Far and Wide, Helpers Pour into a Fire-Stricken San Diego

Article excerpt

Rachel Hanley arrived in San Diego Wednesday after a 12-hour drive from her home in Colorado Springs, Colo. She parked her truck at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, home of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, and set to work caring for some of the more than 2,500 horses that have been given shelter there from the region's firestorm.

"There are a lot of displaced folks, but they seem to be taken care of," says Ms. Hanley. "But these animals are really scared, and not a lot of people can handle them. People are helping the fire victims of San Diego in all sorts of ways. Mine just happens to be with horses."

At least 1,000 volunteers have turned out in recent days, arriving at the fairgrounds and Qualcomm Stadium, evacuation central, to offer their services to the fire-besieged - everything from medical skills to yoga instruction.

Likewise, fire crews who've been battling the blazes since Saturday are seeing reinforce- ments arrive, as fires that had blackened nearly 500,000 acres by Thursday morning continue to burn throughout San Diego County. Eight deaths have been attributed to the southern California fires, and in a bit of bad news that represents the opposite spirit of the volunteer corps, authorities reported that arson is the suspected cause of two wildfires to the north - one in Orange County and one in Riverside County.

Among the firefighters who have worked to contain the San Diego fires are crews from Tijuana and Tecate in Mexico. "It is very important for Mexico to cooperate with the United States in situations like these because these fires affect the environment on both sides," said Capt. Marco Antonio Garambullo, Tecate's Fire Department director.

Mexico has also sent electricity to the area. A fire cut a main power link with Arizona, and a blaze near the Marine base at Camp Pendleton was, at press time, threatening the main north-south power corridor that connects San Diego with the rest of California.

The Mexican firefighters have since returned home to battle their own fires, but caravans of fire crews from northern California, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington continued to roll into San Diego on Wednesday. About 950 firefighters from the US Forest Service will arrive soon, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reported.

Away from the fire lines, average Americans with strong arms and big hearts threw their energies into helping all creatures, great and small, survive the fires as comfortably as possible. …