Residents help battle the Temprano Fire Sunday, Sep. 23, 2012 in Murrieta, Calif. near Warm Springs Park and Preserve. Firefighters raced the winds Monday morning to contain Southern California wildfires that destroyed 20 homes and threatened several hundred more in rural areas. (AP Photo/The Press-Enterprise, Frank Bellino) MANDATORY CREDIT, NO SALES, MAGS OUT
CAMPO, Calif. — Residents of a rural San Diego County community were waiting anxiously to learn the fate of homes near a destructive 4-square-mile wildfire that has left one man dead.
Christopher Kirchner told U-T San Diego that his rental home was about 200 feet from a residence that burned down — one of 20 homes destroyed by the fire so far.
“I was just talking to some of my neighbors,” Kirchner said. “They were crying and saying they had no place to go. We’ve heard rumors that our place is still standing, but nobody will tell us anything.”
Firefighters recovered a man’s body from one of the destroyed homes Monday, a state fire spokesman, Robbie Richard said. Authorities say the man ignored evacuation orders issued for the community of Tierra del Sol.
“He felt that he was going to be OK if he stayed,” sheriff’s Lt. Rose Kurupas told the newspaper. It was not clear whether he was notified of the order in person or by an automated phone call.
Authorities said neighbors reported the man missing when they saw his only vehicle parked at the home. Neighbors told U-T San Diego he was 82 and had only one leg.
Tierra del Sol remained under evacuation orders, though residents of two other small communities were allowed to return home as crews stopped the fire’s march forward. A total of about 80 homes were evacuated at the fire’s height.
The blaze has been fanned by winds that gusted up to 30 mph, spreading it across more than 2,400 acres of desert brush near the U.S.-Mexico border. Its cause remained under investigation.
The fire also damaged 10 and burned 15 outbuildings since it erupted Sunday, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Capt. Mike Mohler. Many residents were gathered at the Golden Acorn Casino, which served as the command post for firefighters, to learn whether their homes were still standing.
Other blazes in the West remained active, blanketing some communities in eastern Washington state with smoke. The air quality in many Wenatchee and Cashmere areas was deemed either “hazardous” or “unhealthy” by state officials.
Authorities there updated the sizes of two of the state’s largest fires after more accurate mapping and burnouts to create fire lines, officials said. The Wenatchee Complex of fires was reported at 82 square miles, while the Table Mountain fire had burned nearly 57 square miles.
Crews also gained ground on a 5½-square-mile fire in Montana’s Musselshell County, allowing residents to return to about 50 homes southeast of Roundup. That blaze was human-caused and under investigation.