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265,000 flee as massive wildfires char Southern California

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: 123 structures destroyed by wildfires in Lake Arrowhead
  • NEW: White House: Federal Agriculture Department will provide fire crews
  • Fires threaten San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park; animals evacuated
  • Malibu Canyon fire is 10 percent contained, officials say
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SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- More than a dozen uncontained wildfires raged Monday across Southern California, threatening thousands of structures and forcing people to flee homes from San Diego to Malibu to Lake Arrowhead.

This photo taken from space Monday afternoon shows smoke rising from the wildfires in Southern California.

Fire officials said more than 265,000 people have been evacuated and nearly 4,900 firefighters are battling the fast-moving blazes, which began over the weekend.

By Monday afternoon, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention had reported 13 active wildfires have consumed more than 98,000 acres and destroyed or damaged at least 50 homes and businesses across six counties.

The winds driving the flames are expected to stay strong, coming out of the northeast, at least through Tuesday, according to CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano.

"It's a tragic time for California," California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said earlier Monday.

He declared a state of emergency in seven counties and asked the National Guard to pull 800 soldiers from patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border to help battle the wildfires.

Monday evening, Schwarzenegger asked U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to order delivery of all available Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) to help fight the fires. Video Watch fires devour homes and land »

Citing the proliferation in the number of fires, Schwarzenegger wrote, "Your immediate assistance is necessary to deploy Department of Defense aircraft located in Wyoming, North Carolina and Colorado to assist California in our firefighting effort."

According to the White House, the federal Agriculture Department will provide fire crews, air tankers and helicopters to fight the fires, and the state will receive assistance grants to help pay firefighting costs. See where fires burn across Southern California »

Hardest hit was San Diego County, where 250,000 people have fled from five fires. One person was killed and 18 were reported injured in the county, including five firefighters. Local officials said the fire situation had worsened throughout the day, prompting new evacuations.

"We have a very dangerous, unpredictable situation," said Ron Roberts, chairman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. "We have some of the highest temperatures, some of the driest landscape conditions and some of the most powerful winds -- all the ingredients for a perfect firestorm."

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  • KGTV: Seven fires threaten San Diego area
  • California fires close part of Pacific Coast Highway

On one cul-de-sac in the San Diego suburb of Rancho Bernardo, five of six homes burned to the ground, leaving flames from gas lines flickering amid the ruins, according to a KGTV report. Photo See photos of the fires »

Officials turned Qualcomm Stadium, home of the NFL's San Diego Chargers, into an evacuation center.

Residents of four housing areas at the Camp Pendleton Marine base in northern San Diego County were put on notice for possible evacuations and told to pack personal belongings as a precautionary measure.

Earlier Monday, fixed-wing firefighting aircraft were grounded by the strong winds, officials said, making the jobs of fire crews on the ground even harder.

Fires threatened the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park on Monday, causing the park to close. Some of the animals, such as endangered condors, are being moved to a safer location, according to zoo spokeswoman Yadira Galindo.

Authorities are asking people to hold off on 911 calls unless there is a real emergency, saying clogged cell phone lines are hurting rescue efforts.

The largest of the wildfires was the Buckweed blaze north of Los Angeles, which has consumed 27,500 acres and forced the evacuation of 15,000 residents from Santa Clarita and nearby communities, according to the state forestry department.

About 4,000 structures were threatened, and the fire was moving toward the Magic Mountain amusement park.

Two fires that erupted Monday morning in San Bernardino County near Lake Arrowhead have destroyed at least 123 structures and charred 1,800 acres, said Loretta Benavidez, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino National Forest. Several communities in the area, including Green Valley Lake, Arrowbear and Running Springs, were evacuated.

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And in Malibu Canyon, south of the Pacific Coast Highway, nearly 1,450 firefighters were battling a blaze that began Sunday afternoon and still threatened 900 structures in the area, which is home to many Hollywood luminaries, the state forestry department said. The Canyon fire is only 10 percent contained, an official said.

The Pacific Coast Highway remains shut down in Malibu. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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