Emergency Calls Detail Horror For California Residents

Friday, November 2nd 2007, 7:06 am

By: News On 6

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ The elderly woman was alone when fire roared across her property before dawn, filling her home with smoke and cutting off the power as she pleaded with authorities to rescue her.

``I'm engulfed in flames and my property is on fire and I'm in my house and I want out!'' the unidentified woman told an emergency dispatcher Oct. 22, according to a 911 recording. ``The embers are just blowing everywhere.

``The fire is all around me on the property. My whole property is in flames,'' the woman said. ``... Oh, the house is so smoky.''

The woman was among thousands who called for help as wildfires swept across Southern California last week, blackening more than 800 square miles and destroying nearly 2,200 homes. Emergency call recordings released by the fire department detail the horror experienced by residents as flames bore down on their homes in the blazes' early stages.

While the woman survived and her property was spared, two people were found dead in the ashes of their wooden house about a mile east of her home, located in an unincorporated area about 40 miles north of downtown San Diego.

About five miles west, Elizabeth Thorson also was by herself when the fire torched a hill and neared her home.

``Are you trapped inside your house?'' a 911 dispatcher asked.

``No, not yet. I'm trying to pack, though. Please! I don't want to go!'' the 83-year-old woman said.

``Stay with me, it's going to be OK. We're going to get there.''

Soon, firefighters arrived and pried open the garage door _ the power had gone out _ so Thorson and a neighbor could drive to safety. Her house was spared.

Altogether, the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department fielded 2,161 calls between Oct. 21 and Oct. 23, nearly three times more than usual, spokesman Maurice Luque said.

The department is still working to tally the number of rescues made during the fires.

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