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Practice Fire Turns Into the Real Thing


SANTA ANA — A fire started in a vacant home Friday morning to train firefighters turned into the real thing when embers reignited the home in the afternoon, officials said.

Firefighters left the home in the 800 block of North Westwood Avenue at 10:45 a.m. But at 2 p.m. that afternoon, strong winds fanned embers on the roof into a second, smoky fire, officials said. Sigurd Carl Hanson, a resident of the area, said: "Somebody next door had to call 911 to bring them back. They came around 3 p.m."

Another resident of the area said she was afraid the wind was going to carry flames to her home.

"I was afraid for my children," said Florence Partida, 35. "I was afraid the smoke would get to my little baby."

Other residents said they were upset they were not notified about the practice drills planned by the Fire Department.

Ten homes in a 25,000-square-foot area had been designated for demolition to make way for a medical facility. They were used for practice drills and purposely burned over the past 14 days. More than 200 firefighters from the Santa Ana, Newport Beach and Orange County Fire departments participated in the drills, Santa Ana Battalion Chief Jim Dalton said.

There were no injuries or damage, Dalton said.

Phillip Crandall, 49, said he had been smelling smoke for several days and had been worried that local youths were starting fires. When he called the Fire Department Friday, he was told that the fire was part of an exercise.

"I thought the whole neighborhood was going to go down in flames," Crandall said. "They should have warned us with notices or something."

Dalton said he had walked door to door to tell neighbors on both Westwood Avenue and Towner Street.

He admitted, however, that the fire late Friday afternoon was not part of the exercise.

"One of the shingles had embers on it, and we had a rekindle so that is why we are still here. We should have been done this morning," Dalton said.

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