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Wildfire Evacuee Conditions at Qualcomm Stadium

• E-mail Maggie Lineback

Flying in to San Diego, the smoke hangs like fog over the area. If you didn't know there were fires here, you might think it was just a thick smog. But once out of the airport, there's no mistaking that smell — fire. It's everywhere. Not just outside, but in the hallways of our hotel, in our clothes.

We stop first at Qualcomm stadium where a few days ago thousands of people were staying after being evacuated. Today, it is down to just about a thousand. Volunteers have set up booths handing out drinks and food. Kids can do arts and crafts. People have tents set up in the hallways and parking lots.

Many have left to go home. What homes they go back to seems to depend to the luck of the draw. We drive to Rancho Bernardo, about 25 minutes North and East of downtown San Diego. From the Highway 15, you can't tell anything is wrong. But when we turn into a neighborhood just off the freeway, you begin to see it. A home here, a home there, then several in them in a row — all burned to the ground. Maybe there's a chimney left or a burnt out car. But not much else. Many people have already come back to check out the damage to their homes. You'll drive by and see people standing in the burned out rubble.

Satellite and live trucks line a few streets. It's hard not to feel like a vulture. We're all here to do our jobs and everyone is hopefully being as respectful as you would want someone to be had your home just been destroyed, but still, just the sheer amount of trucks and crews and cameras can be a little overwhelming. The families who have lost everything are extraordinarily kind and gracious.

The damage seems so random. This isn't a neighborhood in the middle of a forest. It seems so urban. There is one house that's burned right next to one that's standing untouched. Firefighters say that's because when the fire came through, there were extreme winds, winds of 40 to 60 miles an hour that carried fire embers like "dust in the wind." The firefighters say those embers can be tossed thousands of feet to miles. The fire that caused the damage in Rancho Bernardo is just 20 percent contained.


Maggie Lineback is a Dallas bureau producer.