Fire Roars Across Base




 
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Boots
 
October 14th, 2008  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Fire Roars Across Base


San Diego Union-Tribune
October 14, 2008
4,000 evacuated on, off Pendleton; new blaze erupts near Fallbrook
By Greg Gross and Pauline Repard, Staff Writers
The second wildfire in a week at Camp Pendleton forced more than 4,000 people on and off the base to flee their homes yesterday as flames threatened Oceanside neighborhoods.
By nightfall, the Juliet fire had spared the houses, but it scorched about 1,500 acres on the base and was uncontained as it spread to the northeast along the Oceanside city limits.
A separate, 500-acre fire on the base near Fallbrook later merged with the larger Juliet fire farther south and burned to within 200 yards of homes.
Shortly after 9 p.m., new evacuations were ordered for about 300 homes in the northeast corner of Oceanside, off Sleeping Indian Road and Wilshire Road, when another fire, called the Sleeping Indian fire, broke out near Fallbrook.
The Juliet training area fire broke out about 3 p.m. at the southern end of Camp Pendleton, near the base's San Luis Rey Gate east of Vandegrift Boulevard. It quickly jumped the roadway and burned on both sides of Vandegrift Boulevard. At the same time, flames threatened to jump off the base and into Oceanside.
It was the second major fire at Camp Pendleton in less than a week. A 1,500-acre blaze roared across the southern end of the base Thursday.
There was no immediate word on the cause of the Juliet fire, but the base commander, Col. James Seaton, said no live-fire training was going on yesterday when the fire broke out.
The San Luis Rey and Serra Mesa housing areas on the base were evacuated, as well as neighborhoods on Papagallo Drive and Alexandrine Court in Oceanside, just east of the base. A steady stream of evacuees poured out of Arrowwood, Wilmont Ranch and Pilgrim Creek Estates.
In all, more than 2,000 Camp Pendleton residents evacuated, base officials said. In Oceanside, police reported 1,440 homes evacuated.
The Red Cross opened an evacuation shelter at El Camino High School on Rancho del Oro Drive, where about 200 people were assisted. The Oceanside Humane Society was on hand to help evacuees with pets.
It was being erroneously reported yesterday that Oceanside High was an evacuation center. It is not.
School officials said El Camino High would open for classes today, but parents are encouraged to check for the latest information by calling the school or checking the district Web site at oside.k12.ca.us.
Del Rio, Libby and Reynolds elementary schools will be closed today because of their proximity to the fire, said Oceanside school district spokesman Steve Lombard. The schools were expected to be open tomorrow.
Chip Lovett, 71, and his wife, Seiko, left their home in Pilgrim Creek Estates, a manufactured-home community near Douglas Drive, and went to El Camino High in the late afternoon. Lovett said all they took with them were their wallets and address book.
Lovett said police were knocking on doors and alerting residents through a loudspeaker to evacuate. They also had messages left on their phone to leave.
Five horses that been boarded at the base at a 4-H yard joined the evacuees at the high school last evening.
By nightfall, 51 fire engines and more than 350 firefighters were on hand, and fire officials were optimistic, but they said it was too soon to speak of containing the fire.
“We made good progress today, and the aircraft will be back to hit it first thing in the morning,” said Cal Fire Capt. Nick Schuler.
Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service rushed helicopters and air tankers to the blaze, including P-3 Orions, converted four-engine antisubmarine bombers and two Canadian-built “Superscooper” water bombers leased by the county. They dropped water and fire retardant on the fire until night fell.
At one point, some Marine buildings around the San Luis Rey Gate appeared on the verge of being overrun by the fire. Camp Pendleton officials credited the Superscoopers with preventing major losses on the base.
“They saved the day,” Seaton said..
In Fallbrook, the day wasn't over. Flames continued spreading and menacing homes along Sleeping Indian Road through the night.
“Right now, the winds are pushing the flames parallel to the road, which is in our favor, and the Marines had cut a pretty good firebreak in that area for us,” John Buchanon, spokesman for the Fallbrook Fire Department, said in the afternoon. “But we're told the winds could come up about 11 p.m. and stay up until morning.”
A force of 40 engine companies was staged along Sleeping Indian Road as night fell, prepared for the worst.
“We'll be baby-sitting this all night,” Buchanon said.
Staff writers Janet Lavelle, Bruce Lieberman and Rick Rogers contributed to this report.
 


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