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CNN Today

California Firefighters Still Struggling With Wildfire

Aired January 4, 2001 - 2:11 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: California firefighters are using up their energy, struggling again today to corral that wildfire east of San Diego. But instead, the flames remain out of control in many spots, growing to more than 10,000 acres now consumed.

CNN's Jim Hill keeps watch in the community of Alpine, California.

Jim, what's happening there?

JIM HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, after fighting these wind-driven flames since early yesterday morning, firefighters here, near Alpine are hoping they'll finally get a break, that Mother Nature will be their friend today instead of their enemy.

Yesterday, the flames were whipped by winds of up to 50 miles per hour, blowing hard and hot out of the east desert here. Now, today firefighters say the weather pattern is changing, and the winds are much calmer and are starting to move out of the west.

That is a much better firefighting condition for them. There are 2,000 firefighters in place trying to hack fire lines around this blaze, to encircle it, or contain it, if you will. They're being aided by more than 200 fire engines from surrounding counties. Most of those engines have been dispersed to protect homes in the area. And there are up to nine air tankers dropping retardant and water on this fire, as well as nine water-dropping helicopters.

So all the pieces are in place, and firefighters are confident that if the winds continue to cooperate, remaining relatively calm or coming slightly out of the west, that they'll make good progress encircling this fire. But at this point, only 10 percent of the fire is contained, so there's a long way to go.

Also, the two other critical factors in addition to the wind, those being low humidity and volatile fuels, tinder-dry brush. Those are still in place, so firefighters know that they still have an uphill battle in containing this fire and eventually controlling it.

The good news so far: no serious injuries, no fatalities, but there have been five homes lost to this fire.

The cause still not pinpointed, but the suspicion is that a car fire along Interstate 8, the main highway between San Diego, California, and Yuma, Arizona, that car fire may well have sparked this blaze, and the winds pushed along to consuming now just over 10,000 acres -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Jim Hill, in Alpine, California, today.

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