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Calif Heat Brings out Invasion of Pests

VENTURA, Calif. (AP) -- Wildfires aren't the only thing firefighters are coping with these days: the brutal heat wave has driven snakes, rodents, spiders and other pests into homes and frightened residents are calling fire departments for help.

``We're averaging between two to eight calls a day for snakes, usually in ... areas that interface with wildlands. There's tarantulas around, too,'' fire spokeswoman Sandi Wells said Tuesday.

Ventura College student Nina Delorme came face-to-face with a rattlesnake in the bathroom on Monday.

``I freaked out,'' she said. ``I started screaming and screaming.''

Ventura County firefighters captured the snake and decapitated it with a shovel, a common method of dealing with pests.

``We don't relocate snakes in L.A. County. We kill them,'' said inspector Ed Loney of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, which also reported a rise in calls.

Officials say the heat may be bringing them inside homes, but El Nino is being blamed for dumping heavy winter rain that caused more vegetation and a burgeoning pest population.

Frank Blair, fire division chief of Camp Pendleton, said he's never seen so many pests to control in the rural stretch of San Diego County.

``I think it's because of the rain,'' Blair said Tuesday. ``There are more spider webs inside and outside. There are more bees and a lot more snakes. They're everywhere.''

Temperatures have been in the 100s and lightning has touched off dozens of wildfires across Southern California, destroying 26 homes and burning across 30,000 acres.

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