Hill Fire leaves trail of destruction and tears

Fast-moving wildfire destroys property, animals

Hill Fire leaves trail of destruction...

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. - The Hill Fire has been a fast-moving wildfire from the start Monday afternoon fuelled by thick, dry brush and oak trees with dozens of homes and hundreds of animals in its path.

The flames tore through lush canyons and hillsides along Highway 58 east of Santa Margarita scorching hundreds of acres.

An army of firefighters scrambled to deploy manpower and other resources where they could to try and halt the fire's rapid progress.

Helicopters dropped water and planes dropped retardant as the fire moved further east.

The Hill Fire cut a huge swath of destruction, its intense heat burning a double-wide manufactured home to the ground and killing several dogs and other animals that were kept in pens.

"When I got down here the fire was actually over there, their car had caught on fire, and was burning on that bank, it had nothing to do with this one up here", said local property owner Gary Curry, "so we had two of them going at the same time."

Volunteers from Horse Emergency Evacuation Team of San Luis Obispo County, or HEET, worked quickly to rescue the animals from the fire zone.

Some owners were luckier than others.

"I'm the first house on Stagecoach (Road) I have horses, and goats and dogs and cats and everything and I was working in Los Osos, so I didn't know about the fire, I saw the plume as I was driving home", said homeowner Lisa Langere, "I don't care about the house, I don't care about my belongings, I just want my animals to be safe and bring them in."

Mandatory evacuations were ordered for people living in the fire's growing path but many refused to leave their homes and animals.

"Most people out here, we don't like to leave, just kind of the way people are out here I guess", said local resident Brian Reaume, "we want to kind of stay until we have to."

The Red Cross Emergency Evacuation Shelter at Santa Margarita Elementary School is providing cots to sleep on, food, water and first aid if necessary.

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