Bay Area crews battle blazes

Fire crews from around the Bay Area have been sent to Southern California to assist in trying to control blazes that have destroyed more than a thousand homes and killed at least one person.

Extra hands and equipment from the Bay Area have been helping exhausted crews from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border, some of whom have been working since Sunday, when the majority of the fires started. Many will continue to fight the blazes for the next couple days.

As many as 22 separate fires have consumed regions in six counties. San Diego has been one of the worst hit areas. According to California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, more than half a million people have evacuated their homes and more than 300,000 acres have been destroyed. There has been at least one confirmed death and more than 30 injuries.

Some 200,000 people are taking refuge in Qualcomm Stadium, where the San Diego Chargers usually play.

Crews from Bay Area fire stations are lending their assistance and extra firefighters are covering shifts to keep local areas covered as well.

“We are proud of our first responders, and we stand ready to help the people of San Diego in their hour of need,” said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in a prepared statement.

The San Francisco Fire Department has deployed 36 firefighters, according to Newsom's office.

Alameda County sent eight crews; San Mateo County sent one crew; San Benito and Monterey counties sent eight strike teams; and Marin County sent 17 engines to assist.

From Santa Clara County, Sunnyvale and Palo Alto have each sent one engine and Morgan Hill sent three crews.

Firefighters aren't the only ones offering a lending hand. NASA today flew an airplane over the area to take pictures through the smoke to see hot spots, flames and temperature differences.

The Ikhana, an unmanned aerial vehicle, took off from Edwards Air Force Base at 9 a.m. on a nine-hour mission. The photos will be released to the public later today.

In a press conference Tuesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said more than 10,000 firefighters are working to control the fires.

— Bay City News

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