Hundreds remain evacuated near Soledad fire

August 28, 2009 9:12:39 PM PDT
The hot temperatures aren't helping firefighters deal with a fire near Soledad that's burning into its second day now. It has forced a number of evacuations in the Soledad area of Monterey County, along Highway 146.

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Firefighters from the Bay Area, San Francisco, Tiburon, Marin, rolled into the command post at 6 p.m. on Friday.

Earlier on Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency because of the Gloria Fire and one south of it.

The Gloria Fire had burned 6,000 acres by 6 p.m. Friday and 15 was only percent contained.

The rolling hills around Soledad are on fire. If you are near the fire lines, you can see flames, but more often just thick, black and white plumes of smoke. So far, just one home is lost. It belonged to a couple -- Stan and Mary Malolepszy.

"I saw this billowing smoke and I said to myself, 'That's my home.' I didn't tell him. I lost my home and we sure did," said Mary.

The Gloria Fire doubled in size overnight to 5,000 acres. About 100 homes near Highway 146 are under a mandatory evacuation order and there is no word when that order will be lifted.

"The fire is still burning toward these homes and in this area, so until we can get a good handle on this fire, we want to keep them out of harm's way," says Daniel Berlant from CAL FIRE.

Soledad Rancher George Cominos knows he is in the direct path of the fire, but decided to stay and protect his property and animals anyway.

"Mandatory evacuation, I just told them 'I'm not leaving, I just can't.' They said okay and here's what's going on and we'll have an engine that can help you if something happens," says Cominos.

More than 700 fire personal and a dozen aircraft are fighting the fire. The focus is to save homes and keep the fire from spreading into the Pinnacles National Monument.

"Some areas we can access pretty quickly, other areas it's going to take awhile, which is why we are not looking at full containment on this until probably Monday," says Rick Hutchinson, the incident commander.

The Gloria Fire has already taken its toll; Stan and Mary have been married 53 years and lost everything, except each other.

"Everything that I worked for. I just thank God that I am still here," says Stan.

Because of the couple's remote location and some insurance requirements, Stan and Mary did not have any insure on their home or the things inside it.

The start of the Gloria fire came from a grower trying to protect his crop from birds. He fired a fireworks-like type of agricultural device and that's what sparked this fire.

LINK: ABC7's Bay Area wildfire resource guide and safety tips

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