Washington, DC –U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) spoke on the Senate Floor today, to provide her colleagues in the Senate with an update on the devastating California wildfires.
At the time of Senator Feinstein’s remarks, there were 14 large fires burning throughout the State. According to reports, as many as 500,000 people had been evacuated, and the fire had burned through more than 400 miles and more than 309,000 acres.
At the conclusion of her remarks, Senator Feinstein requested that a specific statistical round-up of the larger fires be added into the Congressional Record. (see below)
Following is the text of Senator Feinstein’s remarks as delivered this afternoon on the Senate Floor:
“Thank you very much, Mr. President. I wanted to take a few minutes to do what Senator Boxer did yesterday, which is essentially update the Senate on the catastrophic fires in California. I offer these words on behalf of Senator Boxer and myself.
Today there are 14 fires, big fires, burning in California. The bulk of them are uncontained and out of control. The containment factor is very small.
More than half a million people have been told to evacuate their homes. More than 309,000 acres have been destroyed by fire, over 400 miles from north of Los Angeles to San Diego and now across the Mexican border, and more we fear will be destroyed.
The deaths fortunately to date are limited to one, with 34 injured throughout Southern California, some of them firefighters.
High winds and high temperatures persist. A Red Flag warning is in effect for the California coast from Monterey to the Mexican border.
More than 1,000 homes have been destroyed. 11,500 are now threatened today. More than 100 commercial buildings have been destroyed and 2,000 are threatened. 52 outbuildings have been destroyed and 550 are threatened.
Health warnings have been issued because of smoke and particulate matter.
Now, as you know, these fires are driven by hurricane and gale force Santa Ana winds, which are hot and contrary to the prevailing West -to East brought. They are bone dry from years of drought and virtually no humidity. Humidity is below 10 percent.
Fires are raging still in Malibu, at Lake Arrowhead, in Irvine, and Santa Clarita.
The Arrowhead area is particularly dangerous because there are half a million acres of beetle infested pine, dead trees waiting to go up.
Of course, fires are raging in San Diego County, which is bearing the brunt of two major fires which well could join.
Already, more than 300,000 people in San Diego County alone have been told to evacuate. More than 200,000 are taking refuge in Qualcomm Stadium, home to the San Diego Chargers. These people will be there from 48 to 72 more hours and possibly more. Sanitary supplies are going to become a problem.
It's going to be a real effort to get food and water to these evacuees and to the hundreds of thousands of people displaced around Southern California.
Both Senator Boxer and I spoke to the Governor, and he has declared a seven-county disaster area.
Yesterday, the President declared Southern California a disaster area to be able to speed the Federal Emergency Management Agency's relief, which is critical.
This is going to be a real test of FEMA. We are going to learn whether FEMA actually learned from the hurricane in New Orleans. A test of whether FEMA has gotten its act together, post-Katrina. FEMA must act quickly and urgently get help to California.
The State is going to need cots. It’s going to need blankets. It's going to need water, food and those sanitary facilities that are needed for people who are camping out today, sleeping in cars, located in schools or in Qualcomm Stadium.
And most importantly, this help has to be spread throughout the 14 different fire areas. It's not going to be enough simply to put it in one place.
Last night, the Secretary of Interior informed me that the fires have crossed the line and are entering into Baja California, Mexico, and urges the Mexican authorities take action.
The thing about these fires is they're fast moving. You see them at a distance on a hill and you don't believe you'll be affected because the winds are contrary to what you expect. And then suddenly, within a short period of time -- two hours -- the fire is upon you. So people must be alerted, and they must evacuate these fire areas.
The military is pitching in. 1,500 National Guard personnel are actively engaged or directly supporting fire fighting efforts. We have 550 active-duty Marines, and 17,000 California National Guard personnel are available.
I believe we have more than 5,300 State of California firefighters on the line and hundreds more from local jurisdictions today.
A combination of National Guard, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft are either supporting fire fighting efforts or are prepared to pitch in. The problem is, with the wind and dense smoke, it is difficult for a plane or helicopter to know where they're going.
Simply put, this is a disaster of huge proportions.
It is catastrophic in terms of property lost and environmental damage. Hopefully, it's not going to be a huge catastrophe in terms of loss of life.
I don't think there's anything other than a catastrophic health incident that's more serious to a person or a family than losing their home by flood or fire. And I know that Californians will respond in their traditional stalwart and generous manner to help their neighbors.
Both Senator Boxer's and my heart go out to all Californians today. I would ask that a specific statistical round-up of the larger fires be added directly following my remarks in the record.
Thank you. I thank the Chair, and I yield the floor.”
Specific Statistical Round-up of Major California fires (as of October 23, 2007)
- San Diego: Witch Fire (NE S.D. County, near Santa Ysabel, burning toward Ramona and Julian)
o Acres burned: 145,000.
o Containment: 0%
o Residents Evacuated:100,000+
o Structures destroyed: 500 homes; 100 commercial properties.
o Structures threatened: 2,000 homes; 400 commercial properties.
o Firefighters: 625.
o Injuries: None reported.
- San Diego: Harris Fire (SE S.D. County, 75 miles east of downtown San Diego near the Mexican border)
o Acres burned: 22,000.
o Containment: 5%
o Residents Evacuated:1,000+
o Firefighters: 400
o Deaths-injuries: 1 man killed; 5 firefighters and 20 civilians injured.
- Malibu: Canyon Fire (Burning toward Pepperdine University and Pacific Ocean)
o Acres burned: 3,800.
o Containment: 10%
o Residents Evacuated: 1500
o Structures destroyed: 6 homes; 1 church.
o Structures threatened: 600
o Firefighters: 1500
o Injuries: None
- Agua Dulce–Santa Clarita: Buckweed Fire (Mint Canyon area, burning toward Magic Mountain)
o Acres burned: 35,550.
o Containment: 20%
o Residents Evacuated: 15,000.
o Structures destroyed: 15 homes; 17 outbuildings.
o Structures threatened: 3,800.
o Firefighters: 1200.
o Injuries: 1 firefighter and 3 residents.
- Orange County: Santiago Fire (Silverado Canyon, burning toward Portola Springs and Northwood village of Irvine)
o Acres burned: 15,000 acres.
o Containment: 30%
o Structures destroyed: 1 outbuilding.
o Structures threatened: 2,000.
o Residents Evacuated: Unk.
o Firefighters: 492.
- Lake Arrowhead: Slide & Grass Valley Fires (Green Valley Lake and Lake Gregory)
o Acres burned: 1,800.
o Containment: 0%
o Structures lost: At least 450 homes.
o Structures threatened: 1,900.
o Firefighters: 82 engines, 7 hand crews.