MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
As multiple fires ravage Southern California, Camp Pendleton is working to battle the same situation here.
Earlier today, two fires erupted on base, sending 60 percent of the base’s fire-fighters rushing to prevent as much damage as possible.
The other 40 percent of the base’s fire fighters, including nine trucks and their crews, are assisting in putting out fires in San Diego County.
As President George W. Bush declared a federal emergency for seven Southern California counties, about 350,000 homes had to be evacuated.
Last night, Marines coordinated the evacuation of more than 20,000 vehicles containing civilian families from Fallbrook, a city neighboring the base.
“It took about 3 hours to get through the line,” said Marisol Nieto, a 24-year-old staffing consultant.
“The TV said that absolutely no one is allowed to go back into Fallbrook,” Nieto said.
The families were sent through the base to Interstate 5, allowing them access to San Diego evacuation centers and facilities.
Marines also set up evacuation centers on base in Camp Horno and Camp San Mateo. Civilians from Fallbrook were given rooms in the empty barracks of deployed Marine infantry units.
“The bottom floor is full and we’re starting to fill up the second floor,” said Cpl. Travellis Harrison, a 21-year-old radio operator with 1st Marine Regiment who was issuing out rooms. “When people check in, we try to give them all the basic items we can to make it a little easier.”
The first evacuee’s checked in around 2 p.m. Monday, said Harrison, who had been on duty for close to 36 hours.
“They can also shop at the (store) and use our (dining facility),” Harrison said.
“It’s really great what (the Marines) are doing for us,” an evacuee added.
For Royal Marine Cpl. Kevin Speakman, a 21-year-old from Plymouth, England, the two-week training he and about 20 of his fellow service members on Camp Pendleton were conducting was cancelled as one of the fires closed down a main road on base.
“It’s pretty horrible,” Speakman said as he watched the smoke fill the sky.
Almost 600 square miles of Southern California are ablaze.
Camp Pendleton’s fire hotline can be reached at (866) 430-2764.
For help, contact the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society at (760) 725-5337 or the American Red Cross at (760) 725-6877.