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CNN Today

California Wildfire: Blaze 10 Percent Contained

Aired January 4, 2001 - 1:12 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: As if a power crisis isn't enough, Southern California also is tinder dry, perfect conditions for the wildfire now raging in San Diego County. It began yesterday.

CNN's Jim Hill is near Alpine, California, which is east of San Diego. He joins us with the latest on the firefighting efforts.

What's new today, Jim?

JIM HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Lou, yesterday high winds were fanning flames in this area. Today, high hopes of replacing those high winds, hopes that firefighters can gain some ground in trying to encircle or contain this fire that has been so destructive in this area. The change in weather they're concerned with is a break from the strong, hot, dry Santa Ana winds that blew from the East, replaced instead by a more westerly flow, a little bit cooler and perhaps more humid. And that should help firefighters, at least they hope.

There are some 2,000 firefighters, 2,000 ground crew members who are trying to encircle the blaze. They've made about 10 percent progress trying to get a ring around this fire. Are they are being helped today by a lot more aircraft: up to nine tankers in the air, including two C-130s from the National Guard that will help with specially equipped tanker mechanisms that can put more water on the fire. Also, nine helicopters are being brought in to drop water on the blaze, as well as bulldozers. And no fewer than 220 engine companies, fire engines, if you will, brought in from surrounding counties to help this effort.

So far, they have confirmed that five homes have been lost to this fire. However, the good news is that there have been no deaths, no major injuries in this particular blaze.

The cause is still suspected to be a car fire that broke out along Interstate 8, the main route between San Diego, California and Yuma, Arizona yesterday. They're not convinced that this is the cause, but they're zeroing in on that, and that is the prime suspect at this point.

Now, throughout the day, firefighters hope the winds will stay either relatively calm or be out of the West, and that will help them. But as I say, they've only encircled about 10 percent of this fire so far, and they have a long way to go before they finally declare a victory. I'm Jim Hill, CNN, reporting live near Alpine, California.

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