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In Corona, fire burned as firefighters were stalled in traffic

November 18, 2008 |  8:27 am

How did the Orange County fire get out of control so fast? One answer is that the winds moved faster than the firefighters, who were stuck on the clogged freeway as winds pushed the flames past them. The result, according to the O.C. Register, was that there was no way to stop the fire before it got out of control:

The first 911 call came to the Corona Fire Department at 9:01 a.m., but there were more calls coming in to other agencies. Witnesses alerted by the smoke didn't quite know where the fire was burning, so they telephoned a number of agencies in Riverside, Orange and San Bernardino counties. In a perfect world, the response from Corona Fire Department would have been lightning quick, with a fire station just two miles away. But that engine was busy on a medical emergency -– so the call went to a station five miles away. That was the first hurdle, said Corona Deputy Chief David Duffy. That engine crew had to drive west on a slow-moving freeway clogged with smoke, Duffy said. And so a department that typically responds to medical emergencies in just under six minutes got to the fire in 11 minutes. Two more Corona engines followed -– 12 firefighters in all. That was the initial attack on a blaze fed by gusts of 40 mph and a basin overflowing with dry tumbleweeds piled 8 feet high.

Graphic599 The Times looks at how the trappings of suburbia contributed to the fire's toll in Yorba Linda.

--Shelby Grad

Click here to see full Times graphic.

Photos from the battle against the Southern California wildfires.