Wildfire survivors give thanks as battle with flames continues
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Survivors of firestorms that destroyed more than 2,000 homes in Southern California found reasons Sunday to be thankful even as the damage toll mounted and firefighters worked to contain blazes.
Fire officials kept an eye on warm, dry weather that moved in behind a moist, tropical system that allowed fire crews to make gains Saturday. Winds up to 15 mph were expected but weren’t considered a problem.
“This is fire conditions that we can actively fight, unlike the Santa Ana winds,” said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
But there was a possibility of strong offshore winds in another seven days, he said.
It was the onset of the seasonal Santa Anas — fierce, dry winds blowing from the desert and out to sea — that spread fires across more than 500,000 acres of Southern California during the week, chasing a half-million people from communities as homes burned.
Despite the destruction, so many who lost so much still gave thanks at church services in some of the hardest-hit communities.
At the Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church, where 60 families lost their homes, they gave thanks for the big things: for lives saved, for families, for friendships. They also gave thanks for small things: a hug, a shoulder to cry on.
Symbolizing the region’s improving outlook, San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium was surrounded by thousands of people Sunday — but this time they were National Football League fans, not fire evacuees.
Heidi Schutte was among volunteers soliciting the crowd for donations to aid fire victims. Her bucket was filled with $5 and $10 bills.
“People have been very generous. There’s no change in here — all bills,” she said.
As of Sunday, the state Office of Emergency Services tallied 2,767 structures destroyed. The number included 2,013 homes, office spokeswoman Kim Oliver said.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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