This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.


And I'm Alex Cohen.

More than 1400 wildfires are burning in central and northern California. So far, almost 570 square miles have burned. One of the areas being hit hard is Big Sur. It's on the coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Steve Harper is a wilderness guide living there, and he joins us now. Thank you for taking the time and if you could start off by telling us - what are you seeing out there right now?

Mr. STEVE HARPER (Wilderness Guide): Well actually, this morning we're seeing the mix of fog and smoke. In the morning, we often have a marine layer basically fog coming into the coast to the elevation that a lot of the fire is at gets cooled down a little bit by the marine layer. Up above the marine layer, what people are seeing is more smoke rising in certain areas of the mountains here.

COHEN: You haven't been evacuated yet, but are you expecting that you might have to leave later today?

Mr. HARPER: Well, the thing with fires is kind of tricky. There's so many factors and even the experts, they're here, and we do have some of the top experts that have come in, they're having a hard time modeling this. There's a number of factors, for example, the fog, the wind, the relative humidity, the wind direction, the fuel loads, the vegetation type, it burns faster in some areas that they really thought would burn slow in and vice versa. So we're safe right now. If it stays out of the Big Sur Valley, I probably won't be in any immediate danger, although we are doing lots of fire clearance, and I have fire hose laid all around my home. I have gel kits ready to gel my home, if I need to gel and then get out of here. So we are prepared in that way.

COHEN: Can you tell me a little bit more about this gel? What is it? And will it protect your house?

Mr. HARPER: Well, this gel was actually developed by a firefighter that noticed that after fires there were diapers that weren't burned. It's using a polymer very similar to what's in the diaper, and it's mixed right through a garden hose, kind of like what some people have for a fertilizer sprayer. You literally spray it as some kind of a mist and it makes a coating on your house that sticks to the house and stays - it's kind of like a slim that's on the outside of your house. And you can even come back once it's dried out a little bit and apply a mist of water and it'll reabsorb that and basically what it's doing is putting up a little moisture layer on all on the wood -or even the stucco or on all of the combustibles. It just gives it an extra chance to survive a little bit.

COHEN: Mr. Harper, you're a wilderness guide. What do you think the landscape is going to look like after these fires are over?

Mr. HARPER: Well I know pretty well actually because I've been through at least one, two, three, four, five, six - at least six fires that burned areas I frequently take people into. You know, at first, it'll be black right down to the ground, soil everything. Now some of it also depends upon how the fire burned through the area. Sometimes the area the fire will burn through it just burns the understory, and it just blackens the things on the ground and that's actually is pretty healthy. And that really is part of the natural eco system. We've had fires for millions of years here, and it's just been the last 150 years that humans have decided to kind of plant their homes in the middle of all this.

COHEN: Steve Harper lives in Big Sur California. Thank you and stay safe.

Mr. HARPER: Thank you.

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