Massive Carr Fire Remains Only Partially Contained
NOEL KING, HOST:
The pictures coming out of California are devastating - fires tearing across hillsides, neighborhoods burned, people displaced from their homes. Right now, there are 17 active fires across California. The biggest is the Carr Fire in the northern part of the state. It's burned around 100,000 acres. And as of last night, it was only 23 percent contained. At least six people, including two firefighters, have died. Jeremy Siegel is with member station KQED. He's in Redding, which is near the Carr Fire and several others. Hi, Jeremy.
JEREMY SIEGEL, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.
KING: All right. So as we said, parts of Redding are right in the path of this fire. What have you seen there?
SIEGEL: I've seen a good amount of destruction in some parts of Redding - blackened hillsides, homes completely gone, smoke everywhere. But I will say that Redding, while it is in danger, it's in less danger than it was a few days ago when the fire just swept through parts of the city. Now the fire is more active on its northern end. But as you mentioned, six people have died. Tens of thousands of people have had to flee their homes. Upwards of a thousand structures have been destroyed. So this is having a major impact on people's lives around the community of Redding.
KING: An extraordinary amount of damage. And as of yesterday, we're hearing this fire was only 23 percent contained. That sounds worryingly small.
SIEGEL: Yeah. Officials haven't said when they expect to get this fire totally under control. But they are making some progress. As you said, it's at 23 percent containment, which sounds small. But it is a significant jump from where it was last week. Last week, we saw the fire literally creating its own weather patterns. The heat from the blaze was rising into the sky, forming something called pyrocumulus clouds, which caused what people are dubbing a firenado (ph).
KING: Oh, wow.
SIEGEL: I spoke to Cal Fire meteorologist Alex Hoon, who's out there helping predict weather patterns for firefighters on the front line. He says those pyrocumulus clouds can form when there are clear skies.
ALEX HOON: The thing is, with that smoke layer - the very dense smoke - it actually acts kind of like a lid on the fire activity. When the sky clears out, that would actually allow for the smoke plume to actually begin developing, leading to extreme fire behavior.
SIEGEL: So Hoon says blue skies spell trouble for firefighters on the front line. But that being said, firefighters haven't seen much of that extreme fire behavior in recent days. So things are starting to look up as they try to get a handle on this blaze.
KING: I mean, 17 active fires right now in this state - and this has been a tough couple of years in California. It's not just that there are a lot of fires, it's that they're unpredictable. I actually have a quote here from a chief with the state's forest fire protection agency. He says, "there is no normal anymore." What does he mean by that?
SIEGEL: I mean, we just keep seeing some of these incredibly destructive wildfires. Less than a year ago, we saw the worst fire disaster in state history when multiple wildfires swept through wine country and other parts of Northern California, killing more than 40 people. Right now, there are more than a dozen major fires burning across the state, as you said. One outside of Yosemite National Park has killed two firefighters. And those deaths, fire officials tell me, you know, they weigh heavy on firefighters. And not only do they weigh heavy on firefighters, you know, these fires are also a strain on state resources and for people living here in California. With fire season seeming to get longer every year, it's tough not knowing whether a wildfire could sweep through and force you to flee from your home.
KING: Jeremy Siegel of KQED. Jeremy, thank you.
SIEGEL: Thank you, Noel.
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