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California Wildfire Forces Hundreds From Their Homes

October 5, 1995

INVERNESS, Calif. (AP) _ Brisk sea breezes fanned the embers of an illegal campfire into a blaze that raced to the rocky Pacific Coast on Wednesday, destroying more than 40 buildings on the scenic Point Reyes peninsula.

Hundreds of people were forced from their homes as the wildfire spread across 7,5000 acres of dust-dry Bishop pine and dense brush.

About 1,000 firefighters battled the blaze, using bulldozers to plow up a firebreak along the southern flank and cutting through brush by hand.

``We got to go where the bulldozers don’t, and we’re worried about those winds,″ firefighter Lionel Blanks said.

Air tankers and helicopters dumped water and fire retardant.

Eponine Cuervo, 41, took her two cats, one dog and computer with her when she fled her home, one of about 200 in the 65,000-acre Point Reyes National Seashore.

``The deer and all the wild animals are burning,″ she said. ``The park won’t be the same for years. Everybody who lives here loves that park. It’s not just the houses.″

About 48 buildings believed to include houses, barns and other outbuildings were destroyed and another 12 were damaged, officials said.

The blaze started Tuesday afternoon near Mount Vision, about 35 miles north of San Francisco, when sea breezes apparently rekindled the buried embers of a campfire and winds gusting to 30 mph sent the flames sprinting through groves of pines that burned ``like Roman candles,″ said the Marin County fire prevention officer, Chris Collins.

The blaze was only 30 percent contained.

Only about half of the homes scattered through the rugged Point Reyes seashore area were in immediate danger, thanks to the seaward winds.

The fire reached the Pacific about 2 a.m. Fire officials said they would make a stand on its southern flank.

``This is our last chance for a long way going south,″ said Marin County Fire Chief Stan Rowan. ``If we don’t catch it here, we have a lot of old, big timber that will burn.″

An estimated 30,000 acres of pine forest, along with a scattering of houses and ranches, lie to the south. Fire hasn’t touched the area in more than 65 years.

At the Knave of Hearts bakery, owner Matthew Prebluda watched white smoke drift west. ``I’m not worried right here in the bakery, but my home has been evacuated,″ he said. ``If the winds change, the fire can go anywhere.″

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