Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

California Fire Burns Buildings as Residents Balk at Leaving

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

California Fire Burns Buildings as Residents Balk at Leaving

Article excerpt

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. -A raging wildfire that forced thousands from their homes on the edge of Los Angeles continued to burn out of control Monday as frustrated fire officials said residents reluctant to heed evacuation orders made conditions more dangerous and destructive for their neighbors. The smoky fire tore through drought-ravaged brush that hadn't burned in decades amid a sweltering heat wave and exploded over the weekend. It burned more than 51 square miles and destroyed at least 18 residences.

Firefighters were unable to battle some of the blaze because of evacuation holdouts they had to spend time helping to safety instead of putting out destructive flames, County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.

Some firefighters "felt that they lost additional structures because they had to stop what they were doing to help citizens evacuate, Osby said.

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Justin Correll urged residents to leave quickly when evacuation orders are issued because their "property becomes secondary.

"We don't want firemen to become traffic directors, he said.

The fire was one of two destructive infernos burning in California. A blaze in the scenic Big Sur region of the Central Coast by Monday had destroyed 20 homes and threatened 1,650 others as it burned 23 square miles.

In Santa Clarita, 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, a fire broke out Friday near a highway and quickly spread through arid vegetation in rugged mountains before making its way down into canyons with sprawling subdivisions of large homes.

By Monday, about 10 percent of Santa Clarita's 200,000 residents had been ordered out of their homes.

The wind-driven fire kicked up Saturday like a "crazy storm, said Kara Franklin, who said sand driven by heavy winds hit her in the face as she tried to get a horse and donkey into a trailer so she could tow the animals away. From a ridgetop, she saw flames engulf a neighborhood.

When the blaze appeared to die down, she thought the worst was over and returned. Then it flared up again and she and her son used a garden hose to put out embers that ignited spot fires on her property before fleeing. …

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