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Damage Mounts In California Fires Arson The Cause Of One Out-Of-Control Fire; 11 Homes, 30 Cars Burn, And Tanker Crashes

Sun., Aug. 3, 1997, midnight

Eleven homes were destroyed and more than 1,000 acres charred as brush fires continued to burn in San Diego County, fueled by sporadic winds.

One fire was deliberately set, authorities said.

Thirty cars and 15 other structures burned, and an air tanker helping douse the flames crashed. Firefighters said they didn’t expect to get either of two brush fires under control until Monday.

Two crew members aboard the plane escaped without serious injury. It crashed in the San Vicente Reservoir while scooping water. Of nearly 800 firefighters working to control the blaze, one suffered a minor eye injury.

A teary B.J. Schulz watered an area outside her burnt home.

“I’m trying to prevent this from spreading into my neighbor’s house, because my house is already gone,” she said. “Everything I have - my retirement - was in that house. I’ve got nothing left.”

The fire that took her home was set by an “arson device,” investigators said. It began about 1 p.m. Friday in a steep, remote area.

Temperatures were expected to top 100 degrees Saturday, making firefighting more difficult.

Farther north, a fire raced through 120 acres of the Los Padres National Forest in the hills above Santa Barbara, where firefighters were celebrating the Old Spanish Days Fiesta with Smoky Bear and residents.

In Riverside, east of Los Angeles, authorities said a boy playing with fireworks caused a fire that destroyed a trailer, barn and farm equipment as it burned 25 acres. Two firefighters received minor injuries before the blaze was contained.

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