MIKE PESCA, host:

So those are some of the stories, but right now, we're going to get the top stories from Rachel Martin.

ALISON STEWART, host:

In just a moment.

PESCA: In just a minute. Let's talk about the BPP's Big Story.

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: Firefighters in Southern California are getting some help from the weather as they try to contain the devastating wildfires that have been burning since Sunday.

PESCA: The Santa Ana winds are calming down. These are the winds that have been whipping everything up. This allows firefighters to start getting the upper hand in some of fires in Los Angeles County. None of the six large fires in San Diego County is more than 15 percent contained. An official estimate says that there are eighty-five hundred homes still threatened throughout the entire region.

STEWART: Now the FBI is stepping in to investigate whether any of the fires were caused by arson. One man was arrested on suspicion of arson yesterday, accused of setting a new brush fire in the San Bernardino Mountains. But officials say they don't know if he's connected to the fires that began over the weekend. Another suspected arsonist was killed during a confrontation with police on Tuesday.

PESCA: President George W. Bush is expected to view the devastation in San Diego by helicopter today. More than 700 square miles have burned. The damages are estimated to cost more than a billion dollars.

STEWART: And images of the damages and the devastation all over the Net. One video of a local TV news reporter doing a live shot in front of his own house as it burned to the ground has been viewed more than 200,000 times on YouTube.

(Soundbite of newscast)

Mr. LARRY HIMMEL (Reporter, KFMB, San Diego, California): That was our garage. The living room over there, there was a porch. You can see my hose right here. I have been trying to do something, but…

PESCA: That was Larry Himmel, reporter for CBS-affiliate KFMB in San Diego. I spoke to Larry Himmel on the phone yesterday, and he talked about what it was like covering the destruction of his own house.

Mr. HIMMEL: I got a phone call from the news director, and he said, I need you to go out to that fire and I need you to find a story, find people who are evacuated, talk to people and report the story. Be our frontline there. So I drove out there and I spent that day watching people's houses burn, talking to them, talking to people who were evacuating animals and talking to people who were looking for information, if I knew anything. So I had spent that all day Sunday doing that.

I came back home, and I'm sitting with my wife and I'm saying, oh, this is so terrible. I've just spent the day with these poor people. They've lost everything, and it's just awful. And then we woke up the next morning to that sickening sweet smell when fire is bearing down on you and raining just ash, and it was us.

PESCA: Yeah.

Mr. HIMMEL: And we got everything out of there, and I got my family to a safe place and then got together with a news photographer from the station and the news van and started driving back into the scene, just looking for someone, looking for a story. And as we got closer to my home, I saw that my hill was just completely a firewall. And I said, oh my God, it's going to hit my house. So we drove to my house, drove up the driveway, and he started rolling and threw me the mic and I just recorded my impressions. You know, those juices, that adrenaline juices just kicked in, and I just reported what I saw. Unfortunately, and it was sad is that my family is watching, you know, on television.

PESCA: Yeah.

Mr. HIMMEL: And that's how they see their house burn.

PESCA: Yeah.

Mr. HIMMEL: And so for them, that was the cathartic moment where they lost it. So actually taking them up there yesterday into the kind of charred ruins seeing if could find anything in the ash was a little bit easier for them.

PESCA: That was Larry Himmel, a reporter for KFMB TV, the CBS affiliate in San Diego. You can watch the video of him covering the destruction of his own on our blog, npr.org/bryantpark.

STEWART: And that is today's BPP Big Story. Now here's Rachel Martin with the rest of the news.

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