LAKE ARROWHEAD, Calif. Workers fleeing a wildfire here abandoned a Subway sandwich shop, but luckily for several hungry firefighters, they didn't lock the door.
Along with some reporters and photographers, firefighters sliced bread, squeezed mayonnaise and sprinkled salt before heading back to the lines Tuesday.
"Let's be sure to leave this place clean," said one person, slipping on a pair of plastic gloves, just like the Subway employees do.
The bread was dry, but the whole-wheat loaves held up well. Someone found an envelope, wrote "Donations" on the outside, and everyone slipped bills inside.
They all agreed it was the best meal of the day. For most, it was the only one.
RUNNING SPRINGS, Calif. "We're getting our [butt] kicked."
That statement of defeat was heard again and again from the sparse crews of firefighters watching house after house burn more than 200 in less than two days in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Here's what it looks like.
First you see the fire coming, maybe jumping in bushes or in trees or at a neighboring house. At first the house itself is unscathed.
Then you start seeing a little smoke, seeping through cracked windows. The smoke curls in a brown-gray blanket, up and around, gently wrapping around the roof. This will take about two minutes.
Then in a blink, there are flames everywhere. You hear wood snapping, gas hissing, glass shattering. Everyone jumps if a propane tank explodes. The house is fire, translucent, with just the frame showing through. These fires are fast and hot. You don't see possessions. There are no papers blowing around, no photographs curling and disappearing. Even the refrigerators, the dishwashers, the sofas, just disappear.
And then there's just thick smoke, a smoldering foundation, perhaps a lonely chimney.
And it's only then that the firefighters turn their hoses on the remains, quietly extinguishing what was once someone's home.
SAN DIEGO The goats saved the day.
A Ramona woman said her small ranch was spared by the wildfires because her goats munched dry shrub around her property.
"My neighbor was on TV and said there's only one house still standing in the area, and that's mine," Therese Nerat, 63, said from an evacuation center at the seaside Mission Bay Park as her goats whinnied in the background.
Nerat, who breeds goats and raises chickens, ducks and geese on her ranch, said she rushed out of her home Sunday when a fire raced across communities northeast of San Diego. The blaze has blackened about 164,000 acres and destroyed 500 homes.
"I ran out and started throwing goats in the car," she said. "I got seven out, and 40 are still out at the ranch. The rest of them are OK, thank goodness."
Neighbors have been stopping by to feed her animals, and firefighters trucked in water for them because flames melted pipes in the area, she said.
LOS ANGELES "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night..." Notice that "fire" is not mentioned in that unofficial postal motto.
Deliveries have been suspended to some 480,000 homes and businesses throughout Southern California because of more than a dozen wildfires.
U.S. Postal Service spokesman Richard Maher said 25 post offices were closed Tuesday, mostly in San Diego and San Bernardino counties, where some of the worst wildfires were centered. One post office in Lake Arrowhead's Green Valley area burned down.
Maher said officials were setting up alternative post offices where evacuees could pick up their mail.
LOS ANGELES City officials are cautioning Southern California residents to avoid wild animals displaced by wildfires.
Aside from destroying hundreds of homes and forcing hundreds of thousands of residents to evacuate, the blazes have sent frightened, injured animals fleeing from forests into populated areas.
Los Angeles City Department of Animal Services officials urged residents to stay away from displaced animals and allow them to move on or return to burned areas on their own.
They also recommended bringing pets indoors to avoid contact with wildlife and protect them from smoke in the air.