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Calif. Wildfires Threaten Thousands Of Homes

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

I'm Robert Siegel. And we begin this hour of the program with a report from near the fire lines North of Los Angeles where a massive wildfire is burning out of control. The blaze doubled in size overnight. It has consumed more than 80,000 acres along a 20-mile path and the flames are getting closer to a critical mountain complex that's topped with radio, TV, and cell phone transmitters. Joining us now is reporter Frank Stoltze of member station KPCC. And Frank, I gather you're near the fire lines in the community of La Crescenta, that's just North of Glendale, California. What are you seeing there?

FRANK STOLTZE: Yes, I'm in one of the mandatory evacuation areas and up above me I can see the steep ridges with some flame. It's a fire. The firefighters have actually kept this particular fire here to burn off some of the vegetation. It's a back fire but the air is very smoky. Much of the acreage is, of course, deep in the Angeles National Forest. But it's these areas where the homes (unintelligible) against the forest that firefighters are worried about.

SIEGEL: As you said, they're back into the forest and we lost a syllable there. This became a fatal fire yesterday when two L.A. County firefighters ran their truck off a mountain road. Today California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke about those men. Let's listen to what he said.

Governor ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (California): Every Californian is grateful for their bravery and for their great service and, of course, they are my heroes, and I'm sure that I know that they're also yours too.

SIEGEL: Frank, those two firefighters died in the effort to fight this fire. In general, what are the firefighters doing to try to get it under control?

STOLTZE: Well, we've got of course the hotshots from across the West here who are busy building fire lines around the fire, clearing brush, and setting some of these back fires. We also, of course, have firefighters from city fire departments around Southern California. In fact, I'm next to a fire truck from downtown Los Angeles. They usually are assigned to protect high rises but they tell me that these fires, these rugged fires are harder to fight than those high rises because the weather changes quickly, because of the rugged condition.

SIEGEL: Speaking of the weather, how is today's weather affecting the firefighting effort?

STOLTZE: It's a little bit cooler today. Temperatures over the last few days have been around 100 degrees, humidity is very low. And the good thing is we've not had those hot Santa Ana winds that we see in Southern California that have burned so many homes over the past years. We do not see that wind. That's the one good thing here.

SIEGEL: This summer, of course, we've all been following the California budget crisis and all of the lay-offs and furloughs. Is there any indication that the firefighting effort is in anyway compromised by California's dire straits?

STOLTZE: There's none. We've seen the helicopters up in the air dropping the water. We've seen the big DC-10 Super Scooper that drops 20,000 gallons of water in one drop. So they have the full fire - range of firefighting apparatus on this fire. I'll note, though, that in the budget crisis, they eliminated much of the state's reserve. There's been no indication that that will hurt these firefighting efforts and certainly the governor said he will do everything he can to protect life and property from this massive fire.

SIEGEL: And have you seen what provisions are made for people who evacuate from the forest-fire effort?

STOLTZE: We have evacuation centers at a number of high schools around here. Most people it seems have followed evacuation orders. Many have not. In fact, there's word that a group of residents trapped in a small community deep in the forest is having to be evacuated. There's even a camp where 75 firefighters had to be moved out because flames overran their camp - just an example that while this fire is not as dangerous as it was yesterday, perhaps, is still very much a threat.

SIEGEL: Okay, thank you, Frank.

STOLTZE: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's reporter Frank Stoltze of member station KPCC. He spoke with us from near the fire lines in La Crescenta, California. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Frank Stoltze
Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.

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