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Fires and Floods, Coast to Coast

Wildfires hit Los Angeles and Florida's swamplands as floods threaten heartland.

ByABC News via logo
February 9, 2009, 8:14 PM

May 9, 2007 — -- As the sun set Tuesday evening, fire exploded across ridge tops in Griffith Park, lighting up the sky and threatening luxury homes in the Los Feliz neighborhood.

"They rapped on the front door and said, 'C'mon, you're getting out.' So I grabbed the cat and we left," said resident James Mahler.

The fire may have been sparked by a person who discarded a cigarette, authorities say. A person who walked out of the brush onto a golf course after the fire started is being questioned by police, The Associated Press reported.

The world-class Griffith Observatory, the Los Angeles Zoo and the Autry Museum were also in harm's way.

With temperatures in the mid-90s, extremely dry conditions, low humidity and brush that had not burned in decades have made conditions ripe for a major brush fire.

"What made this fire particularly challenging was the steep terrain and swirling winds," Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Douglas Barry said. "Even though the winds were not blowing very hard, they kept changing directions."

Firefighters hope to fully put out the spectacular blaze later today.

The good news: No homes were destroyed and no lives were lost. At least 600 acres have been charred in the nation's largest urban park.

Rescue crews have their hands full coast to coast as floods and fires have hit several parts of the country.

Flooding along the Missouri River has put several towns under water in Kansas, Iowa and Missouri, and forced thousands to evacuate. Some areas received up to eight inches of water in one day. Some towns could be hit as hard as the devastating floods of 1993.

In Florida, authorities evacuated about 300 homes in the northern part of the state as two fires covering 130,000 acres -- about 203 square miles -- continued to rage on the Georgia-Florida line. Florida officials warned that they might soon need help if the blazes grew out of control. Heavy smoke reduced visibility across the state.

In Georgia, a 107,000-acre blaze in Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge was called the largest blaze in state history and was nearing part of the park that has served as a fire crew command post. Another fire 10 miles away covered 40,000 acres.

And in the wilderness of northeastern Minnesota, a wildfire has burned at least 25 square miles and destroyed 40 structures. The fire has now spread north into Canada.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.