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California Wildfires Update


Wildfires are sweeping today across large parts of California. Just north of San Francisco, the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County has engulfed more than 16,000 acres, we're told. Fifty thousand people in canyons near Los Angeles have evacuated because of another fire. Sharon McNary is a reporter for our member station KPCC. She is in Southern California and on the line.

Good morning.


INSKEEP: Or maybe not such a good morning where you are - what is the status of the fires there?

MCNARY: Well, it - last night, there were two very scary fires on either end of the Santa Clarita Valley, which is about two valleys north of downtown LA in northern Los Angeles County. The one in the east grew very, very fast. And it's threatened a lot of homes. We understand there may be some homes already burned up there. And the one on the west end of the valley threatened a historic black resort built up in the '20s. It threatened the west end of the valley. Now, the west has calmed down somewhat. But overnight, we did have sustained winds of about 20 miles an hour, gusts up to 30. So the attention is now on the fire on the east end of the valley in a community called Canyon Country.

INSKEEP: So we're talking about wildfires in areas that are - they're backing up against vegetative areas, grown-up areas. But you also have development in there. How dry are conditions?

MCNARY: It's been extremely dry. We've had multiple days of what they call red-flag conditions. That's when it's very dry. It's hot. It was 95 degrees yesterday, you know, which is not unusual for late October. And it was very windy. Add those together with the excess of fuel that's grown up after our big rains last year, and that's a combination that, combined with homes built into all of these canyons, can create a very dangerous situation for homeowners.

INSKEEP: Is it tricky when you have a big fire in Northern California and fires as well of scale in Southern California? - because, of course, you're within one state. You maybe have resources pulled two different directions.

MCNARY: Absolutely. California has a networks of mutual cooperating fire agencies. And so it's not unusual for us to see fire engines that might have come from three, 400 miles away during a big fire. But it can be stretched thin. And so we're coming up on the one-year anniversary of the Woolsey Fires that burned through Malibu and Agoura Hills. During that fire, in day three of the fire, they had only gotten 50% of the people and equipment they had asked for. They were 758 fire engines short of what they felt they needed to protect structures. And, of course, thousands of homes burned in that fire. So when we have multiple big fires in California, it is deeply concerning.

INSKEEP: Sharon, are you getting to the point in Southern California where fires are kind of like earthquakes? I mean, they're just going to happen. They're going to happen regularly. They're part of life.

MCNARY: Yes. No. That's not the case. We expect fires. We kind of know which areas have not burned in a long time. People are often very prepared for fires. But it's always a shock to the homeowners to have to pick up and leave and stay away from their homes not knowing what they will find when they come back. I mean, they can watch their homes burn on TV. I've talked to multiple people like that. But it's still extremely concerning anytime we have an evacuation like this.

INSKEEP: Sharon McNary of our member station KPCC, thanks so much.

MCNARY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sharon McNary
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