So. Calif. wildfire destroys at least 20 homes

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September 24, 2012 8:04:31 AM PDT
Firefighters raced the winds Monday morning to contain Southern California wildfires that destroyed 20 homes and threatened several hundred more in rural areas.

Winds gusting to 25 mph were expected in the afternoon in southeastern San Diego County, where a 2,000-acre fire churned slowly through hilly brushlands.

"The winds are picking up, but we still have cooler temperatures" and firefighters hoped to make progress, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Capt. Mike Mohler.

A Monday morning assessment by damage teams estimated that the fire had destroyed 20 homes, damaged 10 and burned 15 outbuildings since it erupted on Sunday, Mohler said.

It was only 10 percent surrounded.

Mandatory evacuation orders were in place for about 80 homes in rural communities near the Campo Indian Reservation.

An evacuation center was set up at a high school in the nearby community of Pine Valley. Many residents gathered at the Golden Acorn Casino, which also served as the command post for firefighters, to learn whether their homes were still standing.

Christopher Kirchner told U-T San Diego (http://bit.ly/UuLG16 ) that the place he rents was about 200 feet from a residence that burned down. He worried that his home might have burned, too.

"I was just talking to some of my neighbors," Kirchner said. "They were crying and saying they had no place to go. We've heard rumors that our place is still standing, but nobody will tell us anything."

Farther north, a 150-acre wildfire in Riverside County is about 90 percent contained. It had been reduced mainly to embers but still posed a potential threat to as many as 200 homes in the Murrieta area if afternoon winds pushed it over fire lines, Murrieta Fire Chief Matt Shobert said.

The cause of both fires was under investigation.


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