More than 1,000 homes destroyed in San Diego

And Gillian Flaccus


Wind-fueled wildfires stretching across Southern California destroyed more than 1,000 homes and businesses in San Diego County alone, and showed no signs of slowing today as thousands more joined a mandatory exodus from their homes.

More than 300,000 people have fled their homes in the county, said San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, adding the number there was expected to grow as more communities were put on standby to leave as the fires burned a path toward the sea &

through populated communities.

The increase in San Diego losses included 500 homes destroyed in Fallbrook, said Holly Crawford with the County of San Diego Office of Emergency Services.

Across Southern California, more than 1,200 buildings have been destroyed. The state Office of Emergency Services did not have an overall estimate of evacuations Tuesday morning &

but the numbers were expected to grow.

As dawn broke on the third day of the fires, the toll mounted as authorities issued new evacuations in San Diego County. One of those, on the La Jolla Indian Reservation in San Diego County, spread to 400 acres and was racing up the side of Palomar Mountain.

It was taking a human toll, too, with more than 12 firefighters and more than a dozen residents reported injured overnight, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Mike McClain.

Deputies also arrested two men for looting in Ramona, also in San Diego County, and there were a handful of other looting cases reported, he said.

Firefighters battling two fast-moving blazes in the San Bernardino Mountains were hampered by steep terrain, winding roads and a forest packed with dying trees, weakened by years of drought. Lake Arrowhead is about 150 miles northeast of San Diego.

Marilee Bishop of Running Springs and her 10 year-old-daughter Erica rubbed their red eyes Tuesday morning as they woke up in a Wal-Mart parking lot where they spent the night after evacuating.

"No one ever expects something like this to happen to them," said Bishop, who resecued eight of her friends' cats and four pet frogs before evacuating from the mountains.

Erica Bishop, her eyes filling with tears, hugged her mom as thick smoke rose in the skies behind them.

"This was really scary," the daughter said.

President Bush declared a federal emergency for seven counties, a move that will speed disaster-relief efforts. He also sent federal disaster officials to California. He did not plan to visit the area himself, fearing his visit would detract from firefighting efforts.

"All of us across this nation are concerned for the families who have lost their homes and the many families who have been evacuated from their homes," Bush said today. "We send the help of the federal government."

Fire crews and fleeing residents described desperate conditions that were sure to get worse.

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