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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

San Diego Fire Press Conference

Aired October 27, 2003 - 11:09   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We had a chance earlier to talk with Dick Murphy, he is the mayor of the city of San Diego. He's holding a news conference right now. We want to go ahead and listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MAYOR DICK MURPHY, SAN DIEGO, CALIF.: ... the safety of their employees. We need, today, to conserve electricity. We need to keep people off the roads. People should be indoors for health reasons, the air quality is obviously very poor. People should be near their homes in case there is any shift in the fire lines. And I would just urge employers, if people are already at work, to send them home as soon as possible.

The most critical thing for people to do is continue to conserve water in our city. We need every drop of water to fight the fire. I hope everybody in the city of San Diego is at least turning off irrigation systems and they should be minimizing water use for at least the next 24 hours.

Finally, we want to be sure that people are continuing to monitor their television and radio stations. That is your best source of updated information. And I would urge people to continue to watch those stations to get the latest up to date information on the fire. I will announce that the governor of California will be joining us approximately 12:00 noon today. We'll give you further information on that as it evolves.

At this point I'd like to call on our fire chief, Jeff Bowman, to give you an update on the fire overnight. Jeff?

JEFF BOWMAN, FIRE CHIEF, SAN DIEGO, CALIF.: Thank you, Mayor Murphy.

I would like to cover a little bit of the fire situation from last night. A little bit about what we're anticipating today, at least early this morning anyway. It is a very fluid situation as you probably can tell already.

The winds were fairly quiet last night. Typically, Santa Anas have a tendency to kick up again early in the morning following a Santa Ana wind condition environment. We don't have any winds as yet in the central part of Orange County. We do understand there's some winds blowing in the mountain areas.

The forecast for today from a firefighting standpoint is high temperatures inland, 90s to 100. Light winds of 10 miles an hour or less from the east are anticipated. I want to reiterate that this is a very dynamic situation. Those winds can kick up very quickly and change the situation that we're facing.

The status of homes in the city of San Diego, I'll cover that first. And it is my goal today, sometime this afternoon, to give you a more thorough county-wide overview of what's going on. I'll give you a briefing what was we know. But it's very difficult for us to get accurate information from throughout the county because there's so much active firefighting going on as we speak.

I'll start with the city of San Diego. We still have about 160 homes lost. That number is again fluctuating. About 150 of those were in the Scripts Ranch (ph) area. Ten in the Tierra Sana (ph) area. And, if you would, I'll go ahead and ask you to refer to the map that's to my left and I'll quickly show you the areas of concern and the areas where we've had structures damaged.

Our deputy fire chief, Jeff Frazier (ph), who's our operations commander, and I want to thank him publicly right now for the wonderful job he's been managing this incident from the command post here. Jeff will show you that the northern flank of the San Diego portion of this fire in the Scripts Ranch area, all of those areas that you see inside the red zone are areas where fire has been -- has either occurred or is still occurring.

The blue dots at the top of that map in the Scripts Ranch area are neighborhood streets where we've had significant home damages, structure damage and lost.

As you go to the west of that map, you can see where the fire line right now is just slightly west of the 805. We have very little fire activity on the western portion of the western flank of this fire at this time.

As you continue to come east on the southern flank, the Tierra Sana area and San Carlos (ph) area, you can see where we have direct flame impingement into some neighborhoods with structures lost. Those again are identified in the blue areas.

If you look at the greater county area, we have fires burning in the Otai Lakes (ph) area, we have fires burning in the Paradise Valley (ph) area. Actually the Paradise fire in the northern flank of San Diego.

The estimates by the incident command teams are that these fires, these three separate fires, the Cedar (ph) fire which is the major fire here in San Diego County, the Paradise fire in the north and the Otai Lakes fire in the south and east may eventually join and become one fire.

We are very diligent in watching the behavior of this fire and we'll give you an update as the day goes on. This morning, however, we feel very good because the weather has so far worked with us and not against us.

Before I turn the microphone over, I would also like to thank the many people behind the scenes, including our citizens who have been heeding evacuation warnings. Our dispatchers and our mechanics who have been working around the clock to keep people informed on the field and on the line about what's going on and the status they're having to deal with.

And all of the other city employees and county employees and members of this great San Diego county who are trying to do the best they can to cope with this emergency. I want to thank all of them profusely.

I'll turn it back over to the mayor and be able to answer questions that you may have later.

MURPHY: I would like to indicate that at least three members of the San Diego City Council are here this morning, again, at the fire communications center, monitoring the status. Councilmember Jim McDaffer (ph), Councilmember Brian Mainchine (ph), Councilmember Donna Frey (ph), Councilmember Scott Peters (ph) was here earlier for the early-morning briefing.

And I want to also indicate that Assembly Member Christine Chio (ph) was here this morning too. She'll be here to help greet the governor when he arrives midday.

I want to turn the podium over to our police chief, Bill Lansdowne, to give us an update on safety in the city. Bill.

BILL LANSDOWNE, POLICE CHIEF, SAN DIEGO, CALIF.: Thank you, Mayor Murphy.

On road closures we've opened all the freeways with the exception of 52 from 15 to 125. There were no reports at all of any instance in any of the neighborhoods last night. The community of San Diego has been absolutely exceptional in maintaining control, working with all the law enforcement officials here in the city of San Diego.

We will be doing inspections sometime after 12:00 today with the fire department. We have hopes to be able to announce some openings of neighborhoods later in the afternoon, around 4:00 at the 4:00 briefing. If we do that and we determine that it's safe, we'll be doing that in stages.

And we'll be talking to all the centers that we have people in. We currently have about 3,000 people at Qualcomm (ph). We have 120 at Balboa Park (ph), which is the long-term evacuation center for people that need longer time to maintain that. And at Mira Mesa High School (ph), 450 people currently at that site we're dealing with.

We will be making announcements over our public access line. It's 619-570-1270. 619-570-1070. That's the information line for all public access. We appreciate the public using that number. It's taken all the pressure off the 911 lines that we have. We appreciate the cooperation that everybody is providing this city and this police department. Thank you. Mayor?

KAGAN: We've been listening to a news conference takinf place in San Diego. That's the mayor, Dick Murphy. He was with us on the phone just a little bit earlier this morning bringing us some of the latest numbers.

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