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Gainesville athletes flee California wildfires

Four were training for Olympic trials

POSTED: October 28, 2007 5:07 a.m.

Four young Olympic hopefuls from Gainesville are among the nearly 400,000 people evacuated from San Diego County in the midst of one of the worst California wildfires in years.

Katie Hagler, 25, Emily Mickle, 19, Morgan House, 20, and Tim Hornsby, 21, were forced to flee the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., on Monday, their parents said Tuesday. The athletes are in training for the Olympic kayaking trials next year.

"It’s a scary thing, but they seem to be OK," said Hagler’s mother, Connie Hagler. "When you hear about something like that, it seems like a long way off, but we do have four local people there."

As of Tuesday, the fire had burned more than 1,200 homes and businesses. Some 245,957 acres have burned in the three days since the wildfires began.

At least 346,000 homes have been evacuated in San Diego County.

Hagler said flames were in sight of the 150-acre training complex on Lower Otay Lake.

"They saw the fire come over the hill and decided that wasn’t a good place to be," she said.

Morgan House’s father, Bill House, said his son had to cram as many belongings as he could fit into a small Ford Ranger truck before leaving his apartment on the campus.

"He seemed to be in a hurry," said House, who spoke with his son by phone briefly Monday. "He said ‘I gotta go,’ and hung up the phone."

Morgan House is staying with friends outside San Diego County, his father said.

Margot Mickle said her daughter Emily left the training center before the evacuation order was made Monday.

"She knew it was coming," she said.

Emily Mickle told her mother she was wearing a surgical mask over her face to filter the choking smoke, sunglasses for the ash in the air and a hooded sweatshirt to keep her hair from smelling like smoke.

"She said it is very uncomfortable," Mickle said.

While leaving to stay with the parents of a fellow kayaker in La Hoya, Emily Mickle encountered long lines at the gas pumps and an ATM that was out of cash.

The phone lines were also frequently jammed.

Katie Hagler was fortunate that she hadn’t settled into a place to live yet when the evacuation order came, and still had all of her belongings in her car, her mother said.

"She was ready to go," she said.

Bill House said his son was most disappointed that the smoke and spreading fires was interrupting his training regimen.

"His biggest concern is he doesn’t want to get out of practice," House said. "But there’s nothing he can do. It’s more important to be safe."

The Associated Press contributed to this report



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