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Weather Aids California Firefighters


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


And I'm Michele Norris.

The temperatures are down, and so are the winds, and that's helped firefighters get a handle on a huge wildfire in Southern California. The blaze broke out Wednesday and forced hundreds of families from their homes. The fire has covered tens of thousands of acres, but only one home has been lost, and most residents have been allowed to return. Here's Frank Stoltze of member station KPCC.

FRANK STOLTZE reporting:

The fire cut a wide swath through the rocky canyons bordering Los Angeles and Ventura County to the north. Ken Kaplan(ph) lives in one of the dozens of communities filled with million-dollar homes nestled in the hills. Flames forced him from his home.

Mr. KEN KAPLAN: It was like an inferno. If it wasn't threatening our homes, it would look almost sort of like a painting, like really pretty, but you realize how dangerous it actually was, and it was just fire all along the ridge here, all over here, and then on this ridge over here.

STOLTZE: Firefighters worked 48 hours straight, scrambling through thick brush to protect homes as the flames bounced around 20,000 acres.

Captain TERRY GIBBONS (Firefighter): Water coming!

STOLTZE: Fire Captain Terry Gibbons and his crew doused one are where firefighters lit a backfire to burn off the brush.

Capt. GIBBONS: Just trying to keep the fire from getting into the neighbor's backyard fence here. And they've already burned it out; we're just coming through and making sure it's all out completely.

(Soundbite of radio transmission)

Unidentified Man #1: Any more hot spots up that way, or...

Unidentified Man #2: ...(Unintelligible).

STOLTZE: Three thousand firefighters battled the blaze, along with water-dropping helicopters and planes piling on fire retardant. Thousands of homes were saved, as were hundreds of horses that were evacuated. The weather helped as the hot desert winds from the first day of the fire turned into a cooler coastal breeze. Los Angeles County supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky also credited a coordinated response from dozens of local and state agencies.

Mr. ZEV YAROSLAVSKY (Supervisor, Los Angeles County): This incredible show of unity and coordination--these men and women train for this eventuality all year round, and this is what differentiates California from so many other parts of our country, and we're very grateful for that.

STOLTZE: The cause of the fire is under investigation; arson has not been ruled out. For NPR News, I'm Frank Stoltze in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Stolz