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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A family of six spent two days in the wilderness in sub-zero temperatures after their Jeep rolled off the side of a dirt road and into a crevice. It could have had a much different outcome. CNN's Stephanie Elam reports.
James Glanton and his girlfriend Christina McIntee huddled with their two children, and her nephew and niece, keeping everyone together and keeping everyone warm.
After they were found Tuesday, all six were in stable condition with "no frostbite, just some exposure issues," said Patty Bianchi, the CEO of Pershing General Hospital. Dr. Doug Vacek told reporters they all were doing "very well."
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Teacher slayings in Nevada and Massachusetts this week are the latest examples of how educators feel schools are less of a traditional safe haven, especially from gun violence that killed one of the instructors, an education firm says.
A survey of 10,600 educators in 50 states captured this uneasiness after another school shooting - in Newtown, Connecticut - when the vast majority of respondents favored an armed guard to improve safety, though they didn't want to be armed in school themselves. Almost a third of teachers felt that their school wasn't safe from gun violence.
"That's a high number to me. That's a lot of teachers feeling nervous about this," said Cory Linton of the School Improvement Network, which provides professional development to educators and which conducted the January survey.
"Even though nine out of 10 educators feel safe in school, the survey shows that teachers don't feel completely safe from random acts of violence," said Linton, executive vice president of the Utah firm. "You think about how many students are in Massachusetts and how many students are in Nevada. They're not going to learn much this week. That's a pretty high cost to society."
As a sign of the times, 43-year-old Linton cited how the only drill he did in school was for earthquakes. Now, his five kids must learn a "lockdown drill" in school in the event of a violent intruder or bomb threat.
In one remedy to this specter of violence, some teachers carry a "panic button" that turns on a video camera in the classroom that transmits live footage and audio to police, Linton said.