New Zealander rescues family from US fires

Published: October 24, 2007 | 6761st good news item since 2003

A family visit turned into a rescue mission for an expatriate Kiwi caught up in the fires in southern California.

Renee Cohen, 29, was on a farewell visit to American relatives near San Diego on Tuesday when she was caught in the fires that have razed hundreds of homes and forced 500,000 people to flee.

Cohen and husband Neil, an American, will return to settle in New Zealand this week after living in Florida for five years.

Cohen said her relatives had decided to evacuate their home in Poway, north of San Diego, and had spent a night preparing to leave.

“We were driving up during the day to see them and the sky was black, like midnight,” she said.

The relatives had to fit their most treasured belongings into a pick-up truck and the Cohens’ car, take their dog and leave their home to its fate.

The news had since been good from the Poway area, with effective firebreaks being established in the hills to stop the flames.

Cohen said smoke had spread to Los Angeles, where the air had a brownish tinge to it “over and above the usual LA smog”.

Cohen, who is expecting her first child, is from Wellington.

California’s insurance commissioner says the fires have probably caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to homes and businesses.

“This is just a terrible disaster; it’s going to be one of the worst ever,” California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner said.

The total destruction would easily be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Analysts with Moody’s estimated San Diego County will lose $45 million daily from disruptions caused by the fires.

Published in Rescues
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