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  1. #1
    Piggybank Cop's Avatar
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    Unhappy Remember the Firefighters too.

    Calif. wildfire kills 4, burns 24,000 acres
    1 other critically injured in deliberately-set blaze; 700 people evacuated
    The Associated Press

    Updated: 8:46 a.m. ET Oct 27, 2006
    POPPET FLAT, Calif. - Fire crews struggled to protect homes Friday from a wind-whipped wildfire that trapped and killed four firefighters in a wall of flames as it raced across 15 miles of terrain in Southern California.

    The blaze, which authorities said was arson, blackened nearly 24,000 acres, almost 38 square miles, in the San Jacinto Mountains just west of Palm Springs. It destroyed 10 structures, including at least five homes. At one point, several hundred mountain residents took refuge with campers in a nearby RV park where crews could protect them.

    The fire was only 5 percent contained early Friday as more than 1,100 firefighters worked to protect homes and build fire lines. Late Thursday, crews were being sent to an area near the fire’s western border.

    “We’re going to be here, and we’re going to hit it hard,” said Riverside County fire Chief John Hawkins.

    Deadly arson fire ‘constitutes murder’
    Fire officials were mourning the deaths of four U.S. Forest Service firefighters killed while attempting to protect a home close to where the fire began in Cabazon. The flames came so quickly the five-person crew had no time to retreat to its engine or use protective sheltering.

    Authorities said a $100,000 reward would be offered for information leading to the arsonist’s arrest.

    “A deliberately set arson fire that leads to the death of anyone constitutes murder,” Hawkins said.

    Three of the firefighters died at the scene and two were taken to the hospital in critical condition. One died several hours later and the other had burns over 95 percent of his body, said Pat Boss, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman.

    Boss identified his friend, Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser, a 43-year-old father of five from Idyllwild, as one of the victims.

    In addition to burns, the surviving firefighter had severe respiratory damage, according to Dr. Dev Gnanadev, a trauma surgeon at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center.

    “Overall, the chances of survival are low when you have that bad of an injury,” Gnanadev said.

    The names of the other firefighters were not released. All were based in Alandale, a small community near Idyllwild.

    Deadliest wildfire since 2001
    It was the deadliest wildfire in the United States since July 10, 2001, when four firefighters were killed in Washington’s Okanogan National Forest. They became trapped by flames on a dusty dead-end road.

    Thursday’s deaths brought to 19 the number of California firefighters killed in the line of duty over the past year, according to statistics kept by California Professional Firefighters, a lobbying organization.

    At least one civilian suffered minor injuries and 200 people in the small, mountain communities of Poppet Flat and Twin Pines were forced to flee their homes, authorities said.

    Hundreds evacuated
    In all, nearly 700 people were evacuated, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told reporters in Sacramento. Schwarzenegger signed an emergency proclamation designed to free up state resources to help fight the blaze and make Riverside County eligible for financial assistance.

    People in the Silent Valley Club RV Resort near Poppet Flat were unable to leave after firefighters closed the only road out of the community. TV footage showed vehicles racing through smoke and flames just before the road was closed.

    Firefighters said it was safer to keep the people in the RV park because the blaze was stymied by a firebreak created years earlier around the area, said sheriff’s Cpl. Todd Garvin.

    “This is a safe haven here. That was cleared about six years ago and it still works. It’s amazing,” Garvin said.

    About 400 RVs, with 800 to 1,000 people, had registered to spend the weekend for annual Halloween events, said Silent Valley ranger Charles Van Brunt. Officials said the visitors had enough food and water because they had prepared to be there for the weekend.

    Forecasters were calling for strong Santa Ana winds that could reach up to 60 mph. A “red flag warning” was in effect through Saturday night because of a mix of strong winds, low humidity and warm temperatures.

    Pillars of smoke that could initially be seen in the area were quickly blown away by the strong winds and at one point the scent of smoke could be detected as far away as San Diego, 80 miles south.

    Timo Hargu, 61, said he rushed from his hilltop home with his two dogs after he looked out a window and saw the fire burning in a nearby valley.

    “The whole thing was ablaze with flame,” he said. “It was the most spectacular view. A terrible view, but spectacular.”

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  2. #2
    TheeBadOne's Avatar
    TheeBadOne is offline Why so serious?
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    "When I'm driving along and I see a sign that says, CAUTION: SMALL CHILDREN AHEAD,
    I slow down, and then it occurs to me, I'm not afraid of small children"!

  3. #3
    Willowdared's Avatar
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    The winds are so high, the smoke is down here.

    This is especially gut wrenching for San Diegans. Three years ago nearly to the day, our county was ravaged by fire. A firefighter from Novato was killed in an eerily similar situation.

    Our fire was started by an overweight, under-prepared, and inexperienced hunter who got lost. He started a "signal" fire.
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  4. #4
    adroitcuffs's Avatar
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    Thanks for remembering our fire brethren. Continue to pray for their families and friends as well as for the safety of those who remain on the fire lines. So far, it looks like the firefighters who were protecting the fire-surrounded Silent Valley RV park have been successful in protecting everyone there.

    The entire Hemet valley is covered in a layer of ash. The a/c units are just sucking in the smoke, sometimes making the smoke smell stronger inside than outside. I had to turn of the a/c in my cruiser 'cause it was just blowing ash in my face. With only 5% containment so far, it's gonna get worse before it gets better I'm afraid.

    To whomever is responsible for creating this nightmare...
    The true measure of your character is what you choose to do when you think no one is looking.





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