Southern California wildfires affect families, animals, economy
Have students use the weather page to see what's happening this week in Southern California and locally. Other exercises can involve finding the hottest and coolest cities.
California newspapers share fire images and personal stories submitted online by the public. Send class members to the local paper's web site to find comments, contest entries, photos, blogs or other items of interest sent in by local readers on any topic.
Papers in the fire areas presented information about shelters, air quality, road closings, support services and other emergency tips. Invite students to recall times when their families and neighbors relied on news reports for guidance during severe weather, power outages, flooding or other distress.
Crews on the ground and in the air still are working to control wildfires in rugged hills near San Diego and Los Angeles after widespread blazes displaced as many as 1 million people last week — the biggest U.S. migration since Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of evacuees brought small pets to hotels and temporary shelters, while authorities set up safe areas for horses and other large animals. More than 2,000 horses were taken to a fairground in San Diego County, for instance.
About 20 separate fires destroyed more than 2,000 homes and 340 commercial buildings and scorched more than 500,000 acres in several Southern California counties since Oct. 21. About 60 firefighters were injured and at least seven civilians died as flames were fanned by hurricane-force winds whipping though canyons. That weather phenomenon, known as Santa Ana winds, also kept aircraft from dumping water or chemicals on burning woodlands. The largest fire, north of San Diego, may not be fully extinguished until next week. Officials blamed lightning strikes, careless campers and arsonists. Fires spread quickly because dry, hot weather had turned underbrush into dangerous kindling. "When you have those conditions come together, you know you have the perfect storm for a fire," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said.
Roughly 9,000 firefighters, air tankers and water-dropping helicopters fought the blazes. A Mexican crew helped battle a major blaze along the border south of San Diego. Many stories of heroic evacuations and other bravery by firefighters emerged from burned areas. The governor said the region's economy "suffered a major body blow," and one economist estimated the disasters could cost as much as $2.5 billion in property damage.
Evacuee says: "When I pulled out of my driveway, I thought the whole neighborhood was going to be leveled. I really felt we were losing everything." -- Lee Hamilton, San Diego radio personality whose home was spared
Firefighter says: "It's our town and we know people who are losing homes. So if you sit down and take too long a break, someone else might lose a house." – Capt. Mike Rigney, San Bernardino County Fire Department
Governor says: "It was spectacular to see how people came together." – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Front Page Talking Points is written by
Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2013
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