FALLBROOK, Calif. – Firefighters in Southern California were on high alert for dangerous fire potential even before the first brands broke out.
But once the flames met ferocious wind, fire were mostly powerless to stop fires that destroyed more than 500 buildings, killed dozens of horses and forced hundreds of thousands of people to walk away from six out-of-control fire that burned more than 260 square miles (673 square kilometers) since Monday.
“The crews were trying to continue to advance this as fast as they could,” said Captain Kendal Bortisser of the California Department of Forestry and fire prevention. “If we know that when a tornado hits the Midwest, there is no stopping it. When a hurricane hits the east coast, there is no stopping it. When Santa Ana winds come, there’s no stopping it.”
The fire brigade got to the floor Friday, and some of the first refugees who fled from flames on Monday were allowed to return home.
New fires were popping up, and the danger remained. The vegetation is bone dry, there is hardly any rain and wind were expected, gusting to 40 km / h (64 km / h) Saturday and up to 50 mph (80 km / h) Sunday in Los Angeles and Ventura areas, the National Weather Service said.
Fire have taken puzzled over a large swath of Southern California, because the biggest fire broke out Monday evening in Ventura County, where the only death attributed to the fires, so far, involved a 70-year-old woman who was found dead in a wrecked car on a designated evacuation route in the small town of Santa Paula.
Three people were burned trying to escape a fast-moving fire that began Thursday 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of San Diego that faded in a mobile home retirement community, and a race horse training facility.
John Knapp has not initially believe that a sheriff deputy’s order to leave when he first spotted the fire outside his house in the Rancho Monserate Country Club.
“I thought he was full of bologna, but as soon as I saw the flames and the smoke, I thought that maybe he’s right,” Knapp said.
After leaving, he watched from a nearby highway for five hours as the community went up in smoke.
More than a third of the community 213 mobile home burned as a fire zigzag along a hill, skip a number of streets and razing others. In one street, all 24 homes were gone, with only the carcasses of cars and twisted metal remaining.
Knapp was sure he had seen his home burn on the television news, so he was expecting the worst when he snuck past a police barricade to witness the damage and was surprised to find it still standing.
Others who managed to get a little more than the clothes on their back were not so lucky.
Dick Marsala was too overwhelmed to speak as he searched through the smoldering remains of his house, looking for his wallet. A framed photo of him playing golf was still hanging on a blackened wall.
“I’ll be darned,” he said, his eyes tearing as he on sunglasses
Tom Metier, whose house was spared, zipper by means of the mobile home park in a golf cart, giving bad news to a number of of the neighbors who called him.
“It’s really horrible to see some of these little streets look like a moonscape,” he told a friend, whose home was reduced to black rubble.
The flames that tore through Fallbrook, the self-proclaimed “Avocado Capital of the World’, also a slap in the nearby city of Bonsall, where an estimated 30 to 40 elite thoroughbreds have died when the flames swept in the barns at the San Luis Rey Training Facility.
Pandemonium broke out, hundreds of horses were being released to avoid that they burn in their stables. They nearly stampeded trainer Kim Marrs as they rescued a horse named spirit.
Marrs said that it was awful to see the remains of the once regal animals.
“It’s quite apocalyptic,” she said. “If you touch them, it’s just ash.”
Associated Press writers Amanda Lee Myers in Bonsall, Elliot Balancing in San Diego, Brian Skoloff in Ojai, and Brian Melley, Michael Balsamo, Robert Jablon and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
For complete coverage of the forest fires in California, click here: https://apnews.com/tag/Wildfires.