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Wildfire Damages Buildings And Forces Evacuations

October 4, 1995

INVERNESS, Calif. (AP) _ A fast-moving wildfire burned out of control today through more than 2,000 acres of brush and timber, destroying at least 40 structures and forcing hundreds of residents to flee the scenic Point Reyes peninsula.

The blaze that broke out Tuesday afternoon was 20 percent contained, but of there was no estimate of when full containment would be reached.

``The fire is moving toward the ocean, and that’s good because no major structures are in its path,″ said Eric Neitzel of the Marin County Fire Department. He said at least a dozen homes were damaged.

No injuries were reported.

Marin County Fire Chief Stan Rowan said the fire had reached the ocean in some areas before dawn and there would be no attempt to halt its westward march to the sea. Instead, the focus would be halting its spread north and south.

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

He estimated there were 30,000 acres of pine forest to the south, along with a few homes and ranches. Fire hasn’t touched this area in more than 65 years.

There are about 200 homes scattered in the rugged area, but only about half were in immediate danger, thanks to the wind blowing towards the Pacific.

Seven air tankers took off at dawn to dump retardant on the flames and helicopters dumped water carried in from nearby lagoons, Neitzel said. Some 1,000 firefighters were expected on the lines.

As bulldozers worked to build a fire break along the southern edge of the blaze, hand crews moved out to cut through dense underbrush.

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

At Knave of Hearts bakery, owner Matthew Prebluda watched billowing white smoke drift west and waited nervously for word about his home.

``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.″

As the Humane Society evacuated livestock, families waited tensely at an evacuation center to learn the fate of their homes.

``I’m happy we are alive,″ said a teary Anna Maria Ramirez as she received the news that propane gas tanks were exploding on her street.

The blaze started Tuesday afternoon from an illegal, poorly extinguished campfire near Mount Vision, about 35 miles north of San Francisco, said Marin County fire prevention officer Chris Collins.

Collins said high, erratic winds of up to 30 mph sent the fire quickly through groves of Bishop pines that burned ``like Roman candles.″

The skies became calmer after dark, but strong winds were expected to return today.

Dulce Gonzalez, 13, said she was taking down laundry from a line outside her home when she saw the flames less than a mile away.

``It was really scary,″ she said, standing beside a row of Red Cross cots in the West Marin School auditorium. ``I thought we weren’t going to get out of there.″

Eponine Cuervo, who evacuated with her two cats, a dog and her computer, said she was worried about the condition of the Point Reyes National Seashore, a 65,000-acre wilderness area.

``The deer and all the wild animals are burning,″ the 41-year-old Cuervo said. ``The park won’t be the same for years. Everybody who lives here loves that park. It’s not just the houses.″

County Supervisor Gary Giacomini, who represents West Marin, said the fire was raging through the same area devastated by floods more than a decade ago.

``It’s like disaster heaped on disaster,″ Giacomini said. ``Many of these victims whose houses burned down were flood victims in 1982.″

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