MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
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And I'm Michele Norris.
The fifth largest wildfire in California history is still burning in the rugged Los Padres National Forest, north of Los Angeles. The so-called Day Fire has consumed about 250 square miles of brush and timberland.
NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports that while the blaze hasn't touched heavily populated areas, there have been some close calls for the 4,000 firefighters on the front lines.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO: Investigators says it may have started accidentally by someone burning trash. From there the flames raced across the dry timber of the remote Los Padres National Forest. Fire information officer Mark Struble says the area's extremely dry brush and combustible trees have been in flames all month.
MARK STRUBLE: Yeah. it started on Labor Day, actually. That's why they call it the Day Fire. The joke going around the camp now, it's called the day after day after day fire. It just kind of keeps going.
DEL BARCO: Firefighters say the rugged terrain and erratic weather changes have made it difficult to completely control, though the fickle winds have died down somewhat. Already the cost of fighting the fires has topped $53 million.
STRUBLE: It's like why don't they put that thing out. And it's just not as easy as that. I mean, this is the hottest driest time of the year down here. We're under what is called red flag conditions right now.
(SOUNDBITE OF HELICOPTER)
DEL BARCO: Here along Wildlife Road, the embers are still smoldering among the burned pinion and Jeffrey pines. In the distance, helicopters are still dumping water on the ridges. Up the charred hill is where Donna Martin watched the fires surround her house earlier this week.
DONNA MARTIN: Well, it was a wall of fire like 30 feet high or so. The pressure, it was like hearing jet engines, like a blowtorch. It just flew across the air current. It really reminds me of a dragon throwing out fire, just looking for wherever it can consume stuff.
DEL BARCO: Martin says she was especially worried because just a few yards from here, over a small ridge, she and her husband Steve have lions...
(SOUNDBITE OF LION ROAR)
DEL BARCO: ...and tigers...
(SOUNDBITE OF TIGER GROWL)
DEL BARCO: ...and bears...
(SOUNDBITE OF BEAR SNIFFING)
DEL BARCO: ...that work in Hollywood movies, TV shows, and music videos. When she heard that the fire was coming near, Martin packed up all her famous, exotic pets, including the new MGM lion, The Jungle Book tiger, and two black leopards: Crystal and Ivory.
(SOUNDBITE OF ANIMAL GROWLING)
DEL BARCO: I wonder if your animals thought this was a Hollywood movie going on.
MARTIN: It's very possible, because they didn't react at all. They just thought oh, helicopters, fire, you know, they've seen that before on shows.
DEL BARCO: They didn't get freaked out?
MARTIN: Are you kidding? They have to - in music videos they have to listen to that pounding music, especially rap music. They were not shooken(ph) up. They thought it was a routine we're going on a job. The leopards actually were pretty much snoring in the back the whole time.
(SOUNDBITE OF ANIMAL GROWLING)
DEL BARCO: The Martin's 100 chimps, reindeers, zebras, wolves, and other animals are back in their cages now, but Martin says she's prepared to evacuate again if the fires come back. One of her neighbors up the road lost his house in the fires.
Another, John Grisback(ph), an L.A. Sheriff's Deputy, says he's grateful that the firefighters helped save his two-story English Tudor house. But he's upset that it's taken so long to extinguish the fires.
JOHN GRISBACK: My only complaint is not with the ground guys, they were terrific. It's just that the highest level of management, in allowing this fire to get this expensive, this long - and it was beautiful area with rivers and trees and - God, it's going to look hideous. I can already see looking at it.
DEL BARCO: People living in the mountain communities in the northern part of the region are still on alert for evacuations.
(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO BROADCAST)
Unidentified Man: Uniformed fire command for Day Fire recommends that all persons of the communities of Lake of the Woods, Pinion Pines, Cuddy Valley, and Pine Mountain Club evacuate immediately.
DEL BARCO: But some, like Margery Crocher(ph) don't plan on leaving. The 46- year-old says the fires were frightening, but she has special plans for this weekend.
MARGERY CROCHER: I plan to have a wedding at Tate Ranch on Saturday. It's going to be a great wedding. Frazier Park will not burn.
DEL BARCO: Fire crews from as far away as Alaska are still working to make sure it doesn't. they're hoping that Day Fire may finally be snuffed out sometime next week. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.
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