In her 42 years of living in Southern California, Sophie Payne of Carlsbad has "never, never, never" witnessed so many wildfires at one time.
Three dozen raged overnight. Eight of them continued to burn Thursday in a patchwork across of San Diego County, ravaging 10,000 acres since Tuesday, and killing at least one person. Payne's hilltop house was an exhibit of their destruction: It was burned to the ground, except for a stone archway and several walls.
"This is my dream house, and what can I say," she said, looking at the destruction to the three-bedroom, four-bathroom house. "Now it's all gone."
Payne found some family keepsakes in a small safe, and while intact, the papers were charred at the edges. "It's just falling apart," Payne said.
Another family in Carlsbad similarly lost its house, but everyone - including the dog - survived.
"We walked up to this place, and it was like a bomb went off. I can't even explain to you how just horrific it was," Anya Bannasch told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" on Thursday.
"I've never seen anything like it. I pray for all the other families too out there that are going through this right now, because I know there's fires everywhere," she said.
Gay Walker was evacuated from her home in nearby Encinitas and doubted she would even be allowed to return by Friday. Police told her to evacuate immediately.
"It was an orderly evacuation, but it was reminiscent of something apocalyptic," Walker said.
The City of Carlsbad reported was what apparently the first fire-related death Thursday.
On its website, it said: "During a hot spot check, firefighters were alerted to a transient encampment in the area of Ambrosia and Calliandra. On checking the area, firefighters located a badly burned body. Further details about the deceased are unknown at this time and the investigation is ongoing."
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