L.A. Mayor: 'Devastation I've Never Seen'

With fires raging, thousands still unable to go home; LA mayor vows to rebuild.

ByABC News
November 15, 2008, 3:52 PM

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 16, 2008 — -- For the fourth straight day, Southern California is burning, and low humidity and high temperatures continue to keep firefighters busy in hundreds of hot spots while thousands of people are still unable to return to their homes.

This morning an offshoot of the large fire that has raced through six communities in Orange and Riverside counties since Saturday spread north into the Los Angeles County city of Diamond Bar.

This largest of the fires has burned more than 10,000 acres and still threatens a thousand homes. Fire officials have not put a figure on how much of the fire is contained and an all-out ground and aerial assault is under way.

"What you see is a devastation I've never seen before," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said after visiting a mobile home park that was nearly completely consumed by the flames. "We're going to rebuild, make no mistake about it."

But the good news is that the high winds that have spread destruction over 18,000 acres across four counties since Thursday night have subsided and by this afternoon wind conditions are predicted to let up even further. The first of the fires in the Santa Barbara-Montecito area is now 75 percent contained.

"It's been a very tough few days for the people of California," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said this morning at a press conference held at the Oakridge Mobile Home Park in the northern Los Angeles suburb of Sylmar, where officials said nearly 500 of the 600 mobile homes were destroyed by the blaze.

Schwarzenegger praised the extraordinary efforts and coordination of state and local fire agencies and police in dealing with the disaster that has destroyed at least 800 homes and forced 50,000 people to evacuate at one time or another.

A big reason the fires haven't caused even more devastation is that the "red flag warning" that Santa Ana winds were on the way was issued early last week and there was time for firefighters to be positioned in high-risk fire areas where they could be ready to respond quickly, the governor said.