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Breaking News

Area Resident Discusses California Fires

Aired December 26, 2000 - 11:41 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now, ironically, you have the ice storm in the Southwest. On the West Coast, in Southern California, the complete opposite situation: You have dry weather, high winds, and a raging wildfire very close to some homes.

With the latest on that, let's bring in our Jennifer Auther, who is in Thousand Oaks.

Jennifer, good morning.

JENNIFER AUTHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn.

We are standing at the Hidden Canyon Townhomes, about 670 units, where fire broke out about 2 o'clock this morning Pacific Time. We are told right now the fire has consumed 600 acres. There are 15 engine companies on scene. Six -- six hand crews are working to clear brush in the area: 200 firefighters in all are on scene. Three helicopters are here. Aerial tankers are coming in later today. They'll be able to drop fire on this wildfire.

There's no mandatory evacuations, no homes lost as of this moment. Right now, they're concerned about winds. There were 70- mile-an-hour gusts in this area just yesterday.

And Thousand Oaks -- just so you know -- is about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles: We're right on the Los Angeles County and the Ventura County line.

And the concern now is that winds will pick up and make this fire difficult to contain. Right now, no one is even using the word control, and there are wind advisories in this area through 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time, 6 o'clock Eastern.

I want to introduce you now to Dennis Harding. He's been living here at the Hidden Canyon -- Hidden Canyon Townhomes, excuse me, for 15 years.

Tell us what last night was like for you?

DENNIS HARDING, RESIDENT: Gosh, last night, I was up this morning at 3 o'clock in the morning, which kind of unusual, and popped on the TV watching the news and stuff, and a news flash came on that there was a fire in Lindero Canyon. And we live right next to it, and I couldn't quite figure that out. I looked out on the patio, I didn't see any fire, so I got in the truck and took a ride up behind North Ranch, and there you could see the fire. It started -- it burnt the whole hill up behind the houses.

And by the time I had gotten in my truck and driven 8 miles back around and got back up to the house, the flames had come over the top of the hill.

AUTHER: And we were talking earlier with Joe Luna (ph), Ventura County Fire Department, and he said that about 7 o'clock this morning Pacific, 10 o'clock Eastern, that, in fact, the fire had come over the ridge here right behind these townhomes. Can you describe for us what was happening then?

HARDING: That looked pretty much like 60-foot flames coming over the top of the hill. That's when everybody, actually, in the neighborhood started evacuating.

They had -- the sheriff was in here, and we were waking people up down in this building, and then at this building -- the two buildings they were going to evacuate first. And then the flames took off across the back side up here and came down to the other houses. And those people over there, they didn't even give them a chance: They just woke them up and took them right out of the house.

AUTHER: And were they telling you these were mandatory evacuations, because when we just checked with officials, they said that at this time, no?

HARDING: Right, at time the sheriff was telling us to wake everybody up, get your paperwork in order, and whatever you wanted to get, and put it in the car, so that if they did have a mandatory, you'd have to leave. But I think the people in the end of this building here and the building that runs out across the backside here, they evacuated them. They just went in to say, get out of there now because you don't have time.

AUTHER: All right, Dennis Harding, longtime resident of this area, thank you for joining us.

We want to say right now that fire officials have no clue as to how this started. They are saying that with winds blowing this intensely, it could be a downed power line. And then another fire official told me he saw something on the computer about an auto fire.

Daryn, we're going to toss it back to you now, live from Thousand Oaks.

KAGAN: Jennifer, thank you very much for that update from the ground. All the pictures we have seen so far have been from the air, so thank you very much.

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