Australia Going Through What We've Survived, Twice - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Australia Going Through What We've Survived, Twice

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As many as 200 may have been killed in a scene that looks horribly familiar - flames everywhere coming at people like a freight train, homes exploding and whole forests wiped out. It's happened here twice, so San Diego is reaching out and sending our help, our experience, and perhaps our crews.

For San Diego Deputy Fire Chief  Brian Fennessy, the similarities between the conditions of the catastrophe and San Diego's wildfires are stunning.

"They're dealing with 115 to 117 degree temperatures, 60 miles an hour winds, single-digit humidities. It is the perfect storm, and it's what we experienced in 2003 and 2007," Fennessy said.

Also sadly familiar to San Diego, thousands of animals caught in the fires, either killed or displaced, confused where to go.

As the fires rage out of control, the Australian government is considering forcing people to evacuate. Residents now can decide if and when they'll leave.

"To the citizens, when the fire department or law enforcement asks you to evacuate, evacuate," Fennessy said.

So far in the outback, more than 1,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed, leaving thousands of people potentially homeless and demanding to be allowed to return to their property.

"We of course needed to make sure it was safe for people to return," Fennessy said.

But he says even the most foolproof plan could not defend against the conditions Australia's now confronting.

"Weather dominates us," he said.

The U.S. Forest Service is prepared to deploy hundreds of federal firefighters to assist Australia, several of whom could come from our area. It's up to the U.S. State Department to issue the official request. Once that is completed, these deployments would last 30 days at a minimum.

The Australian government is now investigating these wildfires as potential arson cases. The country's prime minister says deliberately setting any of these blazes would be considered mass murder.

For San Diego Deputy Fire Chief  Brian Fennessy, the similarities between the conditions of the catastrophe and San Diego's wildfires are stunning.

"They're dealing with 115 to 117 degree temperatures, 60 miles an hour winds, single-digit humidities. It is the perfect storm, and it's what we experienced in 2003 and 2007," Fennessy said.

Also sadly familiar to San Diego, thousands of animals caught in the fires, either killed or displaced, confused where to go.

As the fires rage out of control, the Australian government is considering forcing people to evacuate. Residents now can decide if and when they'll leave.

"To the citizens, when the fire department or law enforcement asks you to evacuate, evacuate," Fennessy said.

So far in the outback, more than 1,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed, leaving thousands of people potentially homeless and demanding to be allowed to return to their property.

"We of course needed to make sure it was safe for people to return," Fennessy said.

But he says even the most foolproof plan could not defend against the conditions Australia's now confronting.

"Weather dominates us," he said.

The U.S. Forest Service is prepared to deploy hundreds of federal firefighters to assist Australia, several of whom could come from our area. It's up to the U.S. State Department to issue the official request. Once that is completed, these deployments would last 30 days at a minimum.

The Australian government is now investigating these wildfires as potential arson cases. The country's prime minister says deliberately setting any of these blazes would be considered mass murder.

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