How Fires Go Wild

RUNNING SPRINGS, CA - OCTOBER 24: A California Department of Forestry firefighter attempts to extinguish hot spots burning near homes on October 24, 2007 in Running Springs, California. Nearly 500,000 people have been evacuated across the Southern California region and over 1,300 homes have been destroyed as wildfires continue to burn out of control in several southern California counties. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Justin Sullivan
The right combination of conditions can turn routine flames into dreaded wildfires, The Early Show weatherman and features reporter Dave Price pointed out Wednesday.

Simply put, he said, extremely dry fuel and high wind gusts can result in a wildfire.

Santa Anna winds and extra-low humidity have created the disaster hitting Southern California, Price noted.

He explained that there are "three basic ways a fire can explode into wildfire."

"A crawling fire is the most benign. (It spreads) through low-lying vegetation," he said.

A "crown fire," he continued, burns to the top branches of trees, or crowns, causing it to spread at a much faster pace than on the ground.

"And finally," Price added, "maybe the most dangerous is the jumping, or spotting fire. ... A burning ember can be carried by the wind to a new location.

At the Qualcomm Stadium evacuation center in San Diego, Price said people had to leave their homes quickly, "not knowing the state of their property, of their treasures, and even of their neighbors.

"And ... thousands of people will wake up here wondering what the state of their homes and treasures are.

"This place is filled with baby food and diapers and toys, blankets, and tents, and people no doubt will be here at least through (Wednesday) and maybe into and through the weekend."