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May 16th, 2014
05:09 AM ET

Wildfires Scorch San Diego County

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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August 28th, 2013
06:15 AM ET

'Rim Fire' Becomes 7th Largest in California History

 A massive wildfire raging in Northern California continues to burn out of control, becoming the seventh largest in the state’s history.

The Rim Fire has now grown to some 281 square miles - and has destroyed more than a hundred buildings, including some homes. Thousands more are threatened.

“Walking into the burning timber on the edge of Yosemite National Park, the loud crackling of burning trees and the crash of trees falling is unmistakable,” reports CNN’s Casey Wian.

Johnny Miller of Cal Fire says, "One of the biggest concerns is that obviously you see these large trees out here, so we have a lot of those trees that are dropping or falling in isolated areas, so our firefighters really have to be heads up when they're out there putting water on the fire."

In several hot-spots, there's no water in sight. Firefighters are dealing with conditions that make it apparent the fire will continue to burn for longer yet.

“It's not just fire, the smoke is so thick in areas surrounding Yosemite that visibility is reduced to less than 100 yards,” Wian says.

“The good news, most of Yosemite National Park, famous for breathtaking scenery that attracted nearly four million visitors last year, remains untouched by the fire.”

“The park is a large park it's 800,000 acres so we're in about 24,000 acres of it burned, so there is a large area of the park that is still accessible," Miller says.

But much of the main portion of the fire, which has spread to 180,000 acres, is not accessible by either vehicle or on foot. Firefighters are relying on aircraft dropping water and retardant to slow its spread in those areas.

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Filed under: California • Wildfire
August 27th, 2013
06:12 AM ET

Fire Near Yosemite Still Out of Control

A massive wildfire continues to burn near Yosemite National Park, posing a threat to a landmark that attracts thousands of tourists each year.

Scorching up to more than 160 thousand acres now, huge plumes of smoke fill the sky as the Rim Fire rages out of control from crews attempting to reign it in.

“Firefighters made small progress on Monday, saying the fire is still less than a quarter contained, but the dangerous inferno is still rated to have extreme ‘growth’ potential as massive flames ignite rows of trees and dry brush,” reports CNN’s Nick Valencia.

“Nearly two dozen aircraft are being used to fight the fire, the steep terrain making it nearly impossible to access some of the forest by land.”

Turning camp grounds to ashes and even charring a car in its path, the Rim Fire also threatens a reservoir that supplies both water and power sources for San Francisco, as well as several groves of towering ancient sequoias.

Close to the frontlines, Groveland, California is starting to resemble a ghost town.

The owner of one bar says it is peak season leads into Labor Day, but with the highway closed into Yosemite, her business in Groveland is down a staggering 98%.

"Everyone who lives here and owns businesses here is terrified," Iron Door Saloon owner Corinna Loh says.

While the economic impact yet to be seen, businesses and residents are grateful for the 3,700 firefighters risking their lives to try and contain the blaze.

August 26th, 2013
06:12 AM ET

Yosemite wildfire Scorches 144,000 Acres

A massive wildfire in northern California, scorching an area about the size of Chicago, has burned nearly 144,000 acres by early Monday.

The Rim Fire just keeps growing and is only 7% contained right now.

Encroaching its western end, the spread is threatening not only homes but also San Francisco's power supply.

“Thousands of firefighters are battling this massive blaze raging out of control in California's Sierra Foothills,” reports CNN's Nick Valencia.

Veteran firefighters are calling the blaze burning in and around Yosemite National Park one of the worst they've seen.

Vickie Wright of the U.S. Forest Service, PIO says, “So our main objective’s right now structure protection, just making sure we keep everyone safe and that we protect that park at all costs."

“Because of the steep terrain, parts of the fire are only accessible by air,” Valencia says. So bucket drops from aircraft is a crucial way that firefighters, taking shifts on the frontlines, are battling the blaze.

The Rim Fire has threatened small communities, including Groveland, located just on the outskirts of the fire line.

Evacuated by the fire, Susan Loesch and Curtis Evans wait for news about their vacation home.

"It was a little nerve-wracking when they came and knocked on my door, And then when we came up here yesterday morning it was very thick coming through the valley.  And then it cleared so I thought maybe we were still okay, so we're hoping,” Loesch says.

Follow along at CNN.com for developments.

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Filed under: California • Wildfire