Hundreds Routed By Fire Seek Shelter
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ David Swearinga had only enough time to grab his Bible, a couple of watches and his diamonds before the canyon wildfire Sunday engulfed his home of 50 years.
″I got my Bible out. The Lord is with me,″ said Swearinga, who joined about 100 other people in an evacuation center set up at the Normal Heights United Methodist Church.
There were no reports of serious injuries in the blaze, which began in a canyon and raced up a steep slope, destroying at least 53 houses in the fashionable neighborhood about eight miles northeast of downtown, authorities said.
Swearinga, 80, said he had lived in the house for the past 50 years. His sister, 84-year-old Maria Van Dyke, lived with him.
″Our house is gone,″ he said. ″I tried to get out what I could. I got my diamonds out. I got my watch. I got my sister’s watch. I could got a lot more stuff, but the police wouldn’t let me.″
Swearinga said there were 10 homes in his neighborhood. ″Those houses all burned,″ he said.
Police and disaster officials set up a second evacuation center for about 100 families at Hoover High School.
At the church, residents held onto to the few personal belongings they could carry out, including their pets.
″They told me to get out,″ said 78-year-old Michael Marchak, adding that his home was threatened by the fire, but so far as he knew was still standing.
″I took what I could, the money that I had but nothing else,″ Marchak said.
″It was a terrifying experience,″ said Amy Carnes, 73, who was evacuated by a neighbor as flames roared within sight of her canyonside home. She said she didn’t know if her home had survived the fire or not.
″If it’s destroyed, I’m ruined,″ she said. ″It’s a terrifying experience, I’ll tell you. I have a lovely home. Do you want to buy it?″