With Wildfires Almost Contained, California Assesses Damage

Posted on: November 1st, 2007 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

Sikes Adobe

At least 10 people are dead, some of them burned in their homes, and more than 50 firefighters injured by the wildfires that started in Southern California on Oct. 21. About 2,000 firefighters are still containing two wildfires, according to the state department of forestry and fire protection, and 100 people remain in evacuation shelters. So far, more than 15 fires have destroyed 2,200 homes and at least a dozen historic structures, the agency says.

President Bush, who has declared a major disaster in nine California counties, toured the wreckage last week with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. More than half a million people in San Diego County were relocated in the state's largest evacuation.

"Our hearts go out to the more than 500,000 people evacuated from their homes and those who have lost their homes and possessions," Bruce Coons, executive director of San Diego-based Save Our Heritage Organisation, said in a statement. "Our job is to be sure that the cultural heritage of San Diego County is preserved for all of the citizens and generations to come. One of the many dangers in a disaster situation is that a historic site will be bulldozed before an assessment or the proper protection can be made for a site."

Coons and other Save Our Heritage staff members were in the field last week, assessing the damage to historic buildings. So far, the group has determined that 12 structures were lost, including an adobe house built in Escondido in the 1870s that a group restored four years ago, and that two were severely damaged.

"By Monday [Oct. 22], everyone realized how big it was going to be," says Alana Terry, events and education director at Save Our Heritage Organisation, based in San Diego. "We put the word out to all our members to alert us of any damages. It's hard to get information from television because [reporters] don't know there are historic sites there."

A 10-year-old child may have started the Buckweed fire, which burned 38,000 acres and 21 houses in Los Angeles County, according to the Los Angeles Times.

None of the Los Angeles Conservancy's members have alerted the nonprofit of any historic losses, a spokeswoman said.

The state is on guard for more flare-ups this weekend, when dry Santa Ana winds may sweep through Southern California.

Click here for a list of lost and damaged historic properties: http://sohosandiego.org/main/fires.htm

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

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