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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 November, 2003, 16:45 GMT
California fires: Your reaction
Fire engulfs a home in San Diego

A downfall of snow has helped firefighters battle the firestorms in Southern California that have been raging for over a week, forcing up to 50,000 people to flee.

Six major fires are still burning and firefighters hope to comple bulldozing firebreaks to protect threatened communities before next week's expected return of Santa Ana desert winds, which fanned the flames.

At least 20 people are known to have died in the blazes, including one firefighter, and more than 2000 homes have been destroyed.

A state of emergency was declared in LA, San Diego, Ventura and San Bernardino counties.

Are you in California? Send us your experiences and reactions to the fires? Email your pictures to yourpics@bbc.co.uk.

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

Your reaction:

A few hours before I was evacuated from my house, I drove to the top of a nearby peak to get a sense of what was happening. It was a unique scene that might only have happened in California. That mountain has since completely burned over. Although the fire that may yet destroy my home, this catastrophe has brought home to me the absolute necessity of constant care, of always keeping the chance of fire in mind.
Christopher Boese, Lake Arrowhead, California, USA

I'm proud to see the support pouring out of this community
Wendy C., Bonita, San Diego County, USA
The ash and soot are in and all over everything. It blew into my face when I was driving the car today through the air con, even after clearing out the blower the other day. My heart goes out to those who lost their homes. The fire fighters are the bravest around. Many of us have rallied round the fire fighters, and have been donating money, supplies, and thanks to those who are working so hard. I'm proud to see the support pouring out of this community. The politicians are a shameless bunch and should all be recalled for prizing low taxes over security and common sense. The earth will begin to heal, come spring. Today, it is a devastation of charred homes, trees, and chaparral.
Wendy C., Bonita, San Diego County, USA

This past week has been wild in California. We are bonding like never before. California is a diverse state, with people across the age, gender and race spectrum. At the Del Mar Race Track, over 300 horses are living in the racing facilities boarding. Many do not have owners, because caring people took their own time, risking their lives to save these horses. Together, strangers are caring for them. I hope the world doesn't see these tragic fires as California's peril. It has brought out the best in its citizens.
Meagan Cooney, CA, USA

This has been a very stressful week for our family. We live in San Bernadino area were the fires are a disaster. We have been very blessed our home is still standing covered in a thick layer of ash. After visiting the shelters looking for our friends it blows me away how much love, time and money people have given. From blankets to warm clothes, food all the way down to costumes and candy for tonight. The USA has had its fair share of hard times in the last couple of years, but we always stand together in times of need.
Seth, Highland (San Bernadino)

The fire fighters have done such a great job at containing such a massive fire. Flames that were 150 feet tall were less then 2000 feet from my home but they were pushed back. Lucky nature is starting to turn in our favour. The temperatures are about 30 degrees cooler then they were 72 hours ago and rain and mountain snow are on the way for Friday and Saturday. This should knock them out for good.
Colin Keesee, USA

Our home was saved thanks to the hard work of firefighters - the flames were extinguished just 50 yards from us. Our neighbours were not so lucky. Even though the fires near us are now out, the air and winds coming in from the East are a reminder that things aren't over yet. We are now waiting to hear news about friends' property at Lake Arrowhead.
Nicola, San Diego, USA (UK expat)

I live in the middle of this mess and it looks like a battlefield out here
Michael Davis, US

We in the Denver area have a few small wildfires start Wed. Luckily overnight there were cold temperatures and some snow. Only if California were so lucky.
Tim, Colorado, USA

The smoke arrived quite suddenly
Dave, England
I just flew back from Las Vegas yesterday, the wind had changed direction and blow smoke and ash 200 miles from San Diego onto Las Vegas, the smoke arrived quite suddenly, it was very eerie seeing the strip and the sun obscured by the smoke and the taste/smell of ash in the air, some people from Cali I spoke with were stranded there as the main route back home was close because of the fires. Las Vegas has sent numerous fire engines over to help and one casino had a bunch glamour models signing autographs in exchange for emergency food/water supplies being collected to ship over to San Diego
Dave, England

One of my cousins and her daughters live up in Lake Arrowhead, I heard her daughter's house was burned down in Cedar Glen, and her other daughter's house, she doesn't know what condition it is in and she is worried about her house as well.
Robert Rodriguez, USA

I live in Lake Havasu City which is right on the Az/Calif border.......and, the smoke has reached us as well. Needless to say; we are concerned.
Pierce K. Hawke, United States

My home in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky suffer from frequent fires as well, but I cannot even imagine the huge scale of these fires. I am praying for those people in California and hope for the best.
Nathanial, KY, USA

We are travelling to LA on Sunday 2nd Nov. We have tried everything to change our travel plans but virgin tell us we cannot as it is safe and they will charge us 90% of our holiday if we do not go - the government must warn us not to go first. They are sending us into a disaster area and putting more lives at risk for money.
Shirley Carrett, UK

You needn't worry if you are travelling to Los Angeles. While the fires continue to rage and the smoke at times gets so thick that it burns your eyes and throat, it is only the Northern outskirts of LA that are on fire. I live in LA and while I hate putting up with the smoke, my heart goes out to the firefighters that have to fight these fires.
Connie Kermoian, USA

After all the sympathy shown for the victims of these fires, and after all the efforts of the new "backdoor" governor to beg aid from a federal government which is already far into debt, are the very wealthy Republicans of California finally going to let themselves be taxed just a bit more, in order to raise state funds? I do not like to sound so cold, but their selfishness is, and is going to be, the cause of so much woe to their fellow citizens; those citizens who have made them wealthy in the first place!
John Cook, USA

We had similar devastating fires here in British Columbia this summer and many lost their homes as well. The firefighters worked day and night to get rid of the blaze. It is sickening to think that these most bravest of people are among the lowest paid. Firefighters salaries belong up there with doctors'.
Hasan, Canada

As long as everyone is safe we can only pray they'll pick up the pieces and rebuild
Janelle, Melbourne, Australia
My husband's brother and his young family live in Julian, CA. My sister-in-law and nephews were evacuated on Sunday. We just heard this morning that they lost their house. Coming from a country which has bush fires every Summer I can empathise with those who have lost their homes and our hearts break for our family knowing how devastated they are. As long as everyone is safe we can only pray they'll pick up the pieces and rebuild.
Janelle, Melbourne, Australia

I'm staying in Valencia for a week visiting my sister-in-law. While we were out today we saw the local food vendors giving the fireman, free of charge, food and drinks. It's good to see that when adversity strikes we can unite under a common cause and give what ever help we can.
Colin Sumby, USA

I live in Los Angeles County. People with asthma are having a difficulty in breathing. You have to admire the firefighters for what they do. If it wasn't for them my house in Big Bear would probably be in flames by now.
Debra, USA

I was travelling westbound on the new interstate 210 one day this week, the freeway was so thick with smog, all of a sudden I saw all the cars coming towards me and they start honk at me and screaming. I thought I was on the wrong side of the freeway, no I'm not, the CHP had to closed the freeway and turn the traffic back to my direction, there's a fire a head of us. God bless all California.
Ray Sakul, USA

In California, its fires and earthquakes. In Florida its hurricanes. In Kansas, its tornados and boredom. There are risks to living in any area. Some of these risks are manageable and some are not. There are things you can do to reduce the amount of damage that a moderate earthquake will do to your belongings and reduce the likelihood that a fire in the neighbouring brush will travel through your neighbourhood. California would do well to have more tax dollars go to fire fighters, fire prevention programs and state-wide disaster management funds even if it means higher taxes.
Robert, San Jose, CA, USA

I remember standing outside of the university library on Friday, the sky an eerie red
Leila Seradj, San Diego/LA, CA, USA
Though a student at UCLA, I'm native San Diegan; specifically, from the northern region of the county where much of the fires are raging (my former high school is shut down, from what I have heard). I remember standing outside of the university library on Friday, the sky an eerie red - partly an effect of the sunstorms, and partly a result of the blazes. As ash sprinkled onto my clothing and my belongings, I glared at the guy smoking next to me (in typical Southern Californian fashion). It then occurred to me that this unique snowstorm of sorts in the land of sun was not due to my fellow student puffing away at his cigarette, but a tiny effect of the destruction consuming much of the region I call home.
Leila Seradj, San Diego/LA, CA, USA

I hope the United States and other developed nations will finally start seriously stating and fixing this global warming issue. This isn't the time to scratch our heads and try to figure out what the problem is. We all know why this is happening. The same thing just happened in BC. How many more signs will have to be seen before governments take action?
Damien Gagne, Canada

I just don't understand why the State of California does not restrict building in areas where it is considered dangerous. Home insurances don't insure those homes, but the government does. Why are taxpayers made liable for people's stupidity? Wildlife and nature needs to survive somewhere. We just cannot take over everything and not expect some repercussion. I guess it is a way of nature's revenge. Reclaiming what should stay as part of nature. I do feel bad for Everyone involved, but again something needs to be done so that people do not infringe in areas that are prone to fires.
Lisa Koen, USA

I am in a classroom now at Antelope Valley High School, Southern California and the smoke is already here. Lot of students were sent to the nurse office, she could not contain them. The Vice principal had to make an announcement for the treatment of only serious cases. This is terrible.
Emmanuel S. Wreh, Southern California

You have to admire the firefighters with their dedication and courage in fighting these huge fires over in California. These brave people are underpaid, especially when you hear stories of some of them staying on the job as their own homes go up in flames.

I remember the fear and nervous anticipation about whether or not the fire would cross
Jackie, USA
As a resident of Oakland I can relate to my fellow Californians down south. I was here for the Oakland Hills fire in 1991 and remember the fear and nervous anticipation about whether or not the fire would cross the final fire line at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley. Those of us living in the Oakland flatlands knew that if the fire took out the hotel, there was no stopping it. So we packed the car and waited. And we got lucky. But it took years for the scars on the hillsides to even get a hint of green.
Jackie, USA

As a fire-fighter who served in California, I take my hat off to the guys in the various fire departments involved in fighting these fires. These types of fires are by far some of the hardest to fight. Good luck to them.
Nick Somerville, London

I have now decided to leave as the air is impossible to breath and only in last hour it has changed direction and is heading inland for my kids sake and everyone who is in the line of danger please do the right thing. From a Scotsman for the first time praying for rain
Gibson McGill, SAN DIEGO USA

I am studying in Riverside for a year and while Riverside is not on fire we are in the centre of it all. Ash falls like snowflakes and at midday the sky is red like dusk. Everyone knows someone who has lost a home to the fires. It is a total disaster.
Kara, Scotland / USA

My sister and her husband live in San Diego - I'm so worried for them both. Let us all hope that the promised rain will come soon.
K Bedford, England

I hope the wildlife in those areas do find ways to escape before the fires consume them!
Wendy Frederick, United States
I have been lucky, as I live in Santa Monica (the coast). We are getting all the ash and smoke, but it's at least liveable. I am so concerned about the wildlife in the fire areas. I never hear anything mentioned about the animals that make their homes in the mountains of our fair state, but all that is mentioned is how many homes are being consumed. I only hope the wildlife in those areas do find ways to escape before the fires consume them! I only wish the news media would mention them once in a while!
Wendy Frederick, United States

My God, you could consider it as an Act of God, a warning of times to come, but I'm a scientific person. Having been to California for several months 2000/1, I can tell you that I was concerned about Californians not being careful about population - and safety. They badly need an earthquake advance system - remember the earthquakes? It's better to have everyone evacuated than have them killed in an HUGE earthquake (10.00 plus Richter scale). It's better to keep the population low rather than being fast-growing - California is too full of mountains, hills, deserts, oceans to have enough residences AND space to grow food! Do hope California survives, though.
Yvonne Mqadi (profoundly deaf), United Kingdom

I feel so sorry for the people who have lost their lovely homes. For them, many of whom started with nothing, it truly is a case of the American Dream gone up in smoke.
Adrian, UK

This happens every year but it doesn't deter people from living in this beautiful but dangerous area. People who choose to live here should pay very high insurance rates and if they rebuild on the same spot, they should be ineligible for insurance.
Donna, USA

My boyfriend and I spent some time travelling in the USA earlier this year and that included over three weeks in California. We visited some really beautiful places and had a wonderful time and met some great people. My thoughts are with the people of California especially those who have lost their homes and loved ones and with the firemen who are working so hard to fight the fires.
Vicki, UK

I went to a local shopping center yesterday to get some essentials. The whole area looked like a ghost town, except for a few cars and a man jogging with a painter's mask on.
Amy, San Diego, USA

This is the worst thing to ever happen to this beautiful city
Liorale B, USA
This is the worst thing to ever happen to this beautiful city... before our ride to work was mesmerizing because of the large amount of trees, flowers and vegetation... now everything that's left is charred blackness... nothing but distorted figures that once where homes and trees... i am awfully sad and my heart truly goes to all who lost their homes... we are still ok here, but the dread is with us...will we have to evacuate soon? It's very very unfortunate...its apocalyptic...
Liorale B, USA

I cannot emphasize enough the esteem and respect I have for the firefighters battling these fires. My brother-in-law is one of them and has been working for four days straight with scarcely any time to rest let alone sleep. I resent the comments of the gentlemen who used this disaster as a soapbox to preach about taxes. These fires resulted from a number of factors including weather conditions and drought-and not a few of them were the result of arson. France, Spain, and Portugal all endured wildfires this year despite the fact that their tax systems are much more similar to those in the UK than in California. I can assure you that most Californians happily pay the taxes necessary to ensure adequate emergency services. These professionals do not have easy jobs but they do have our admiration, our respect and our thanks.
Emma, Simi Valley, California, USA

My son is a wild land firefighter, currently on the front lines. I haven't heard from him in two days and the anxiety is horrible. He called a few days ago to tell us he was in between two "black zones" A seasoned firefighter, I could hear the tension in his voice. He said all he could think of to equate it to was a 9-11 with forest fires. God keep them safe and return them home soon.
Glenda, USA

I feel so sad for what is going on in S. California; the fire driven people from their home make them home less. May God help them.
Abraham, Canada

All the taxes and firefighters in the world couldn't stop this blaze - too much fuel
Pat, USA
I noted one comment about the lack of building sites in Southern California and it brought to mind stories of ancient Tokyo, Edo and modern Hong Kong....Fires in those cities were common, due to cooking and heating fires and the style of buildings. All the taxes and firefighters in the world couldn't stop this blaze - too much fuel.
Pat, USA

Many news reports are critical of Californians building homes into the hillsides, but the truth is that there is no where else to build. If you are unfamiliar with the local geography, you wouldn't know that Los Angeles and San Diego are completely enclosed by ocean, mountains or desert. Southern California has over 20 million residents and is growing each year. The cities must expand into the hillsides and canyons because there is no more room anywhere else.
Chad Jaeger, US

News reports indicate that the most common similarity between burned homes is wood shingles. Realistically, there is no lack of firefighters or equipment, and many homes with asphalt or ceramic roofs are surviving the fires with only a little heat or smoke damage.
Ben, USA

I live in Westlake Village a town south of Simi Valley. The worst day was yesterday, the skies were so dark. I tried to buy breathing masks at the local DIY stores but they had all sold out. I did buy an air purifier as the house smells awful as if a fireplace had been burning for weeks. The sky looks a bit clearer but I know a few miles north fires are raging and homes being destroyed. My heart goes out to these families.
Nicola Ettridge, CA, USA

The biggest problem is the rapid building into fire prone areas.
Gina, USA
Large fires occur in the Southwestern US every year. The US Government and Western States need to work more on brush clearing and controlling urban growth. Some areas have experimented with controlled burning, while others have used herds of goats to eat the underbrush. All of that is well and good, but the biggest problem is the rapid building into fire prone areas.
Gina, USA

We woke up to yellow skies on Sunday morning. We didn't think much of it. We turned on the news and watched as some of my friends' homes in Scripps Ranch burned to the ground. I started packing. We evacuated at 2:00pm Sunday and arrived back at 7:15pm Monday. It was only 29 hours, but it felt like weeks. Fortunately, our house is fine.
Travis Thomas, Tierrasanta, San Diego, CA, USA

I wonder how many Californian firefighters are currently in Iraq, fulfilling their National Guard duties, instead of being at home doing their real job!
Jen, California, USA

My best friend's outdoor wedding was Saturday in the heart of this firestorm. We held it basically right between the Grand Prix and the Old Fires, and the ash and soot drifted down, making her hair and dress ashy. The wedding party was mostly ash covered, and we spent a lot of time trying to protect ourselves from the wind. All we could do was continue and pray.
Janet, Riverside,Ca, USA

I drove to work at the San Diego airport on Sunday. The highway going north out of San Diego was packed with cars trying to leave. Only a handful of cars were going south, as I was, into the city. There were walls of thick black and grey smoke rising hundreds of feet on either side of me, and the sky glowed orange and red ahead. It looked like I was driving straight into hell.
John, San Diego, CA USA

My wife, who recently left Surrey to be my bride, has a very British perspective on these fires that so far, have only covered our cars with ash and filled the air with smoke: "this is bloody Manchester on its worst day times ten!"
David, USA/ UK

I want to leave but there is no where to go.
Nita Ramsey, USA
We live in the east county, La Mesa. The smoke is thick and it is hard to breathe. All day we have to stay indoors for our health because the air quality is so bad. There is no school and no work. We sit and watch the news. I want to leave but there is no where to go. Ash has been falling all day like snow drifting down. Perhaps tomorrow will be a better day.
Nita Ramsey, USA

Taxes are the price we pay for safety nets--of all kinds.
Robin Prior, UK/USA
Americans hate paying for social services. The lack of firemen and resources has exacerbated a bad situation that was always at risk thanks to poor planning and weak building regulation. Taxes are the price we pay for safety nets--of all kinds.
Robin Prior, UK/USA

The fire stopped four tenths of a mile from where my property. We have had no rain for 177 days. The air is thick with ash and people are wearing facemasks. The media tonight say 30,000 properties are still at risk
Iain Bratt, USA

These disastrous fires are not "acts of God" but a direct result of the average citizen wanting low taxes.
David Camacho, U.S.
I was in the Fire Service with both U.S. Forest Service and the California Division of Forestry for 10 years. After watching years of government cutbacks, we were under funded and therefore under staffed and under equipped. I hope California realizes that these disastrous fires are not "acts of God" but a direct result of the average citizen wanting low taxes, the insistence of the public to build in areas that are known to have known high fire risk and as I note in the photo accompanying this article, the use of wood shingles for roofing and very often insufficient brush clearance around their homes.
David Camacho, U.S.

I want low taxes but that doesn't cause fires that threaten my house.
Jeff, USA
I want low taxes but that doesn't cause fires that threaten my house. Get off your political horse for a moment. Low taxes didn't cause this situation. Taxes really aren't that low to begin with. What caused this situation is a protracted period without rain and the inclination to build homes (sometimes with substandard materials) everywhere regardless of the risk.
Jeff, USA

Many news reports are critical of Californians building homes into the hillsides, but the truth is that there is no where else to build. If you are unfamiliar with the local geography, you wouldn't know that Los Angeles and San Diego are completely enclosed by ocean, mountains or desert. Southern California has over 20 million residents and is growing each year. The cities must expand into the hillsides and canyons because there is no more room anywhere else.
Chad Jaeger, US

The ash and smoke are so thick that they are muffling sound and you can't hear very far. Mix that with the blackened sky, ash falling everywhere, the neon orange sun and the streets almost empty, it almost looks like a nuclear winter. Best wishes to the firefighters and volunteers who are working so hard.
Miguel, San Diego, USA

Our sincere sympathy to the people of California.
Angela Thomas, Australia
At the beginning of this year, bushfires wreaked havoc on our community in Canberra. So, from one bushfire ravaged community to another - our sincere sympathy to the people of California.
Angela Thomas, Australia

The fires near my home in San Diego county are the worst I've seen. Once again, firefighters are teaching us a lesson about bravery and selfless dedication.
Glenn McGraw, USA

Five days, now, of smoke in the air and ash falling. We are not in the "war zone" (how else to describe it?) but we know people who are: friends and co-workers. We have been ready to help, but we can't even be sure that we can get to anyone in time, the fire moves so fast. My parents helped evacuate animals from the San Diego County Animal Shelter; my mother was injured and is in hospital, undergoing surgery as I write this. My wife and I drove 60 miles up the coast yesterday, in hopes of getting away from it, but we could still smell the smoke that far away, and 2000 feet up in the hills.
Jim Carleton, Camarillo, Ventura County, California

I spent the whole weekend watching tanker planes dumping tonnes of water and fire retardant on the mountains opposite my house. All the time hoping the wind kept blowing the other way. I would say it's one of the most surreal moments of my life.
Carl Palmer, Valencia, California

I was on Catalina Island over the weekend and ash was all over our ship. The sky was red with the sun and the visibility was about a mile. The ash has grouped on the water and you can see it drift with the water current. Many of the homes that have been destroyed weren't there 8 years ago. The encroachment of people in the mountains was a disaster just waiting to happen. Many of the homes had vegetation right up to their homes. Many didn't clear brush as they were supposed to. I am just waiting for the rainy season when there is no brush to stop the mud flows.
Russ Black, Los Angeles, Ca USA

I am packed and ready to go if I have to evacuate
Amy Rupp,USA
I live in Escondido which is just south of the Valley Centre fire also known as the Paradise fire in San Diego county. There is no visible sky. The sun shows orange through the grey smoke and ash that is falling everywhere. Going outside is very eerie. The main streets are pretty much empty, the air is acrid with smoke and the intermittent sirens of emergency vehicles are moving quickly north toward the fire which has no containment at this time with no estimate when the fire will be contained. They are just announcing now more evacuations over the radio in the Valley Centre area and now in Escondido as well. I am pretty lucky as I live in a very urban and protected area of Escondido at this time, but I am packed and ready to go if I have to evacuate. I think the local radio stations are doing a very good job informing people of what areas are evacuating, what roads are open, and where to evacuate to. Honestly, I have never seen or been through anything like this.
Amy Rupp, USA

I live in Salt Lake City and the winds today have filled the valley with smoke. It is amazing to think you can smell fires burning hundreds of miles away.
Mick, USA

Today October 27 marks the 10th anniversary of the devastating Laguna Beach fire, when some 400 homes were lost - our hearts go out to those who are experiencing the devastating effects of fire storms.
Sian Poeschl, Laguna Beach, California

I grew up in San Bernardino and currently live in Los Angeles. It was insane when I drove out on Saturday morning, the dark sky was a combination of smog, wind, swirling fire storms! I watched the fire creeping along the San Bernardino Mountains in a matter of minutes! Some family had to evacuate to my parents and friends of the family either lost their homes or were lucky to be the only house standing on their street! That's how random and fast this fire is!
Kimberly, Los Angeles, CA USA

It's smoky outdoors, ash keeps falling and the sun is neon red. We are OK, the fire passed by our house 1.5 miles to the east. We are staying safe, indoors, at home
Janet and Jonathan White, San Diego, USA

Ash and smoke are covering the entire county. It looks reminiscent of war zone in San Diego today.
Paige, San Diego, CA

I was watching the coverage of this devastating fire this morning and the thought occurred to me that if this had been a fire the result of a terror attack, etc we would have had a major effort to help with this. I know there are many fire fighters working very hard and diligently, but can't the government or military step in with something? This situation is becoming worse by the minute. There HAS to be more we can do...already I read there have been reports of insensitive criminal jerks looting evacuated homes. It saddens me greatly for all these people. I am saying a prayer for all of you out there that something can be done to stop this fire.
T A Sheppard, USA

I stood next to a house in Simi Valley looking up into the hills at the smoke. All of a sudden a huge ball of smoke and flame "rolled" down the hill igniting everything in its path.
Chris, USA

Though houses in our area were burned to the ground, we thank God that our house was spared
Greg Negrete, US
My house is situated about one and a half miles from the fire line. I evacuated by wife and new-born twins Sat morning. Sat night my neighbourhood lost power and the phones went dead (Thank God for cell phones). We have a tile roof, but I stayed up all night squirting the trees and wood patio. When the wind blew I could feel the heat from the fire. Police blockades kept out non-residents. Finally, the winds changed and blew the fire away from us. My wife and the twins returned Sun night. Though houses in our area were burned to the ground, we thank God that our house was spared (though everything is covered with ash especially the pool).
Greg Negrete, US

I live in San Diego: with few exceptions, businesses and schools are closed; people are staying indoors because the air is orange. The situation for many people is already disastrous, having lost loved ones and homes. Some of my friends will lose their home today (Monday) - they were evacuated this morning. For the rest of us, it's very tense - the forecast is for 50 mph winds, so we're all waiting to see which direction the wind's going to blow: will it carry the flames towards or away from us?
Ant, USA

My parents have had to evacuate their home in Tierrasanta, one of the three major communities in San Diego whose residents have had to evacuate. I'm worried sick and the only way I can find out whether our home has been burned to the ground or not is to call the house number and see if the answering machine picks up (it has so far, which is the only good sign we are getting). I now live in the San Francisco Bay Area so there is little I can do to help out my parents. We can only cross our fingers and wait to see if our home will be burned to the ground or not. It has truly been an incredibly stressful time for my family and myself. I've been very tired from worrying sick about them and about our home; it feels as if I haven't slept in days although I have.
Wilda, California, USA

As a former California resident myself, I can attest to the fact that many Californians are oblivious to the threat of natural disasters that can destroy their homes building them out on stilts from the sides of hills and in areas with heavy nearby plant and tree growth. The plant matter becomes prime fuel in long hot dry summers, especially in drought years and the hillsides turn into mudslides when there is heavy rain. Californians only think about destruction of their homes after it happens to them.
Mark, USA

On Sunday morning in Bellflower, CA, I came outside and entered a sky of snowing ash. It had formed on all the cars in the parking lot and the sky was a mix of fog and smoke. It seemed like a nuclear winter.
Paul Brown, USA

I have just returned from LA yesterday afternoon. We woke on Friday morning to thick smoke! We where staying 10 miles outside Santa Anna where the fires started. Our car was covered in ash it was still raining ash as we walked across the car park. I have never seen smoke as dense. We where out there for over 3 weeks and the temperature never dropped below 90 degrees, I'm not surprised there where so many fires as it has been so dry.
Dan Little, England

I arrived in LA on Saturday from London. On the final approach to LAX, we entered a thick cloud of smoke from the fires below. The entire cabin of the aircraft went orange and there was a strong smell of smoke. Many fellow passengers were extremely concerned. At LAX itself, the sky was clear, but as soon as you head north you are engulfed by a wall of smoke. The air is acrid and heavy, with falling ash everywhere. The pools in all the hotels are covered in ash, turning the water black. I left my car in the car park at the hotel overnight and, when I returned to it the following morning, there was a layer of ash over it. The entire car had changed colour. I met several Californians yesterday who said they had never seen anything like this.
Andrew Barriball, UK

It has been truly a horrific experience
Patti, San Diego, California
The situation here is terrible. Sunday morning no matter where you went in the city, there was a huge smoke and ash cloud above the city, and the sun glowed bright orange through it - it was an eerie sight, almost apocalyptic in nature. Particles of ash kept floating down onto your face, getting in your eyes, and landing on your clothing. At first we didn't know what was going on, and wondered if maybe a volcano had erupted somewhere, because that was what it seemed like, the aftermath of a volcano. Then we returned home, to see big black billows of smoke near our house, and then became alarmed. Driving home, we could see red embers glowing on a nearby mountain, and the sky was black with smoke. We packed some things and put them in my car in case we had to evacuate, but decided to stay and wait it out. Last night before we went to bed we could see orange fire shining over the hill in the dark - it's about three miles away from our house. It has been truly a horrific experience.
Patti, San Diego, California

I live in Northridge, which is in the northern part of Los Angeles. Although the nearest fires are burning in Ventura County (the next county north and west of Los Angeles County) there is an eerie glow on the distant mountaintops. Even at night, in the dark, there is a layer of slate grey smoke blotting out the whole western horizon. I drove west, toward Ventura County by way of a back road detour, as the freeway is closed. The smoke in Ventura County is so thick that it burned my eyes and throat and strained my breathing. The Santa Susana Mountains in Simi Valley are ringed in fire. Nearer to Los Angeles County, LAPD helicopters circled the edges of another ring of fire. Residents in both counties are standing outside their homes, doing the only thing we can do - watch and wait.
Carolyn Sinclair, USA



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