SAN DIEGO - Hundreds of patients were being evacuated Monday from a hospital and nursing homes in the path of one of more than a dozen wildfires engulfing Southern California. The fires fanned by fierce desert winds killed at least one person, injured dozens more and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.
The hospital and neighboring nursing homes in Poway, a San Diego suburb, were evacuating patients in ambulances and school buses, sheriff's spokeswoman Susan Knauss said.
About a dozen blazes erupted over the weekend, feeding on drought-parched land from the high desert to the Pacific Ocean. One person was killed and several injured in a fire near the Mexican border, and dozens of structures have burned across the region.
Things got worse Monday, when new fires sprouted and others merged, adding to the 40,000 acres — or 62 square miles — that already have burned.
Some of the worst damage was in Malibu, where a church, homes and a historic castle were destroyed.
All San Diego Police Department officers and off duty detectives were ordered to return to work to help with evacuations.
In many cases, crews couldn't begin to fight the fires because they were too busy rescuing residents who refused to leave, fire officials said.
"They didn't evacuate at all, or delayed until it was too late," said Bill Metcalf, chief of the North County Fire Protection District. "And those folks who are making those decisions are actually stripping fire resources."