Fires in three states yesterday claimed at least seven lives, injured dozens of people and caused millions of dollars worth of damage, including more than 90 homes destroyed in California.
In Brookside Village, Tex., a 30-inch natural gas pipeline exploded at a trailer park, killing at least five persons who were overcome by scorching heat as they tried to flee through an open field, authorities said. At least 43 were injured.
The 3 a.m. blast was felt 35 miles away, and the fireball that arose was visible to airplane pilots 200 miles from the scene.
Seven of the 23 homes at the Royal Mobile Home Park in this rural Houston suburb were destroyed.
By the time the fire burned itself out three hours later, the early-morning light revealed twisted masses of steel frames and trailer-home siding and burned-out automobiles with the paint stripped away by the furnace-like heat. A crater 30 feet across was smoldering.
"Some people may have been completely incinerated from the heat and we may not find them at all," said Fire Chief Bill Wilcox.
Cause of the blast had not been determined. In the Los Angeles suburbs, four major brush fires raged out of control for the second day as 1,500 firefighters battled flames driven by strong winds.
A car and a pickup, their occupants fleeing from Malibu, collided Monday in the smoke, killing two persons.
Two helicopters were forced down by high winds. One crashed but its pilot was not hurt.
At least three smaller brush fires were burning in the same area and two others burned elsewhere in Southern California.
As the winds died down, officials said they hoped more humid sea breezes would help them put the blazes out. Some refugees began returning to their homes or what was left of them.
The two largest fires, west of downtown along the Malibu coast and in the Mandeville Canyon area, charred 33,000 acres by sunrise yesterday, while smaller fires to the north and east combined for 5,000 more acres, firefighters said.
A dozen persons, firefighters and civilians, were hospitalized for injuries ranging from smoke inhalation to burns and broken ribs.
Damage to property was estimated at several million dollars.
Pacific Coast Highway was closed from Topanga Canyon to the Ventura County line.
Domestic pets and wild animals, all driven from their dwellings by the flames, mingled with the human evacuees along the beach.
Thirty fire engines were reported speeding down the coast from Northern California, dispatched by the California Office of Emergency Services.
One of the buildings saves was the Will Rogers home in Will Rogers State Park, where paintings and other valuables had been removed when the fire burned to within 100 yards of the main house.
On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, a stubborn fire that worked its way through 10 stores and an elegant apartment caused an estimated $2.5 million in damage, authorities said.
Twelve firemen and a policewoman suffered minor injuries in the blaze, which was out of control for seven bours after staring in the rear of a boardwalk gift shop Monday night.
The fire struck a row of stores between Kentucky and Illinois avenues about six blocks from the Resorts International Hotel Casino.
About 120 firefighters worked on the Boardwalk along rooftops and in narrow alleys to put out the fire.