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CNN Today

South California Wildfire Rages, Several Homes Burn

Aired January 3, 2001 - 1:03 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We're watching another fire today, this one still burning: a large wildfire in southern California. It already has burned several homes on the outskirts of Alpine, California, in eastern San Diego county. And it's closed a stretch of Interstate 8.

Joining us from Alpine, Jim Nash of CNN affiliate KTLA: Jim, how bad is it?

JIM NASH, KTLA REPORTER: It's real bad, Lou. The winds are very high. If you see behind me here, that wall, that black wall of smoke, is coming off of fires that are burning all the way around almost 180 degrees from us right now. Several fires that have jumped all over the place, burning on both sides of Interstate 8.

Behind us you see a huge command post here. This is the Cleveland National Park Headquarters, and you've got hundreds of firefighters, you've got people with horse trailers -- we have lots of horses and ranches out here.

And joining us right now is Ron Reina. He's with the San Diego county Sheriff's Department.

What are you doing -- are you getting ahead of this thing?

RON REINA, SAN DIEGO SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Well, it's very difficult. The fire people say that this is the worst possible conditions. As you know, in southern California, certainly in San Diego county, it's been very dry, humidity is very low, so the winds have been blowing 25, 30 miles an hour, just fanning this fire, which started about 4:30 this morning. And here it is about 10:00, a little after 10:00.

NASH: And right now, we're watching a chopper drop -- he's got a bucket under it -- go ahead.

REINA: Well, the local -- the U.S. Forestry and California Department of Forestry have called in all kinds of help from around southern California. Right now, they have three air tankers, three helicopters, 12 hand crews, 45 bulldozers and engines.

So we've lost, unfortunately, we've lost two or three homes already -- that's been confirmed. Many people have been evacuated. It's a rural area, as you know, Jim, but yet there's a lot of homes here: There's a population of about 24,000 in this area. So it's a very volatile situation.

NASH: All right, Ron Reina, it sure is a volatile situation. The winds are high, it's bone try, we haven't had rain here in months, Lou.

I know you're familiar with this area. You used to work here in San Diego. You know what this area is like. This is ripe for a terrible fire, and it's happening here today.

WATERS: So far, no reports of injuries, and this is really good news. The media is all over this thing. Everybody has to know about it. People are standing watching their homes, but unfortunately, some of those people have been watching their homes burn down.

We've seen a tremendous amount of animal rescue going on here, too, particularly horses.

WATERS: I understand some of those folks have been given little or no time to gather up even the most precious of their personal belongings before they had to clear out.

NASH: That's right, Lou, the problem is this fire is moving so fast. The winds are whipping 60, 70 miles an hour. These gusts are very capricious. Generally, it's a Santa Ana, blowing towards the ocean. That's the general direction of the fire, but it's whipping all over the place. And so people are really given very little time to get up and get out and save themselves.

WATERS: Hey, Jim, thanks for your help, Jim Nash with KTLA, on the fire in eastern San Diego county.

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