Fire hits SD

    Senior Staff Writers

    Travis Ball/Guardian
    Observer: A passerby watches the fire from the Scripps Poway Parkway.

    UCSD will be closed on Oct. 27 in response to brush fires that swept through the area on Oct. 26. Many of the university’s commuting students and staff joined the thousands of area residents that evacuated their homes amid the San Diego County blazes.

    University officials cancelled classes and asked that only health care and essential service employees report to work on Oct. 27 to “”reduce traffic on regional highways in support of emergency personnel,”” an Oct. 26 statement posted on the university’s Web site read.

    “”This weekend was one of the most difficult and challenging in San Diego county’s history, and many of UCSD’s students and employees were personally touched by the devastation we have experienced,”” the statement said.

    Victor Ha/Guardian
    On duty: San Diego firefighters put out flames on Interstate 805.

    UCSD Police officers were put on alert to prepare campus evacuation procedures if conditions were to pose a threat to the campus, UCSD representative Patricia Quill said. Several intramural sports games were canceled and Geisel Library closed early on Oct. 26 as a result of smoky air and falling ash.

    State and local officials declared a state of emergency for the San Diego area, where three fires ­ dubbed Cedar, Paradise and Mines ­ burned about 150,000 acres. More than 25,000 acres within the San Diego city limits have been burned.

    At least 11 persons have been confirmed dead by officials.

    The Cedar Fire, which swept southwest along Interstate 15 to burn more than 100,000 acres, was the closest threat to the UCSD campus. The fire affected the nearby San Diego neighborhoods of Mira Mesa, Miramar and Clairemont Mesa among others. At one point, officials said, the Cedar Fire jumped over to the west of Interstate 805, but was later “”completely extinguished.”” Road closures included Interstate 15 at Miramar Road, Highway 52 at Interstate 163, and Highway 52 at Interstate 805.

    Eileen Callahan, a public information officer at UCSD Health Care, said three people in serious condition and several more were admitted to the UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest during the day for fire-related burns.

    Quill said the university was taking steps to inform campus residents about the situation and how evacuation procedures would work if officials determined such actions necessary. An announcement regarding the campus’ status after Oct. 27 will be released later that day if necessary, Quill said.

    Some UCSD residents seemed unconcerned with the local fires.

    “”I’m not really worried because it’s pretty far and would have to burn through a lot before it got here,”” John Muir College freshman Racquel Ling said.

    San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy held a press conference at 11 a.m. to urge the public to take proper precautions during the fires, including limiting water and electricity use.

    “”It’s very important that people do their best to stay calm and stay off the roads unless they are evacuated,”” San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy said. “”I urge the public to watch TV and listen to the radio for updates.””

    In a statement made at 5 p.m., Murphy asked San Diego employers to close businesses and allow their employees to stay home on Oct. 27 to keep the highways clear for evacuees and rescue personnel. Murphy said that keeping businesses closed would help conserve water and energy, adding that employees were also safer at home than on the roads.

    Southern California’s dry conditions and swirling winds have caused a host of fires recently, as firefighters have worked to contain fires in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino and the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base.

    San Diego Fire Chief Jeff Bowman said that 100 firefighters were deployed on the morning of Oct. 26 to fight the area’s fires and that hundreds of others were recalled from the San Bernardino fires. At times, more than 800 firefighters were battling the Cedar Fire.

    Bowman attributed dry conditions and Santa Ana winds to the fires’ rapid spread.

    “”Fires create their own wind and the brush is a fuel that hasn’t burned in 20 to 30 years,”” he said.

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