California Firefighters Battle Nearly 2 Dozen Major Wildfires
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Some other news now - California's wildfires have now burned more than 4 million acres this year. And Sara Hossaini of KQED reports that's more than double the previous record for an entire year.
SARA HOSSAINI, BYLINE: More than 16,000 firefighters are still battling nearly two dozen major blazes throughout the state with a couple months of fall fire season still ahead. In Northern California's wine country, more than 52,000 people have been evacuated as a result of the Glass Fire. Among them are the Hensons (ph), who have set up a borrowed RV for themselves and their three dogs outside an evacuation center in Santa Rosa.
JESSICA HENSON: We've been evacuated three out of the four years.
HOSSAINI: Jessica Henson (ph) says this time, they had no warning. She says she realized the worst was coming when she walked out of her house on the 7 acres atop the mountain they call home and saw fire climbing from both sides.
J HENSON: As soon as we got to the top of our driveway, we knew we were going to lose our house.
HOSSAINI: But abandoning the land her family has lived on for generations is unthinkable. Henson says she's already focused on rebuilding, despite not having any homeowner's insurance. Husband Alton Henson (ph) says they'll have to rely on the Federal Emergency Management Agency and groups like the Red Cross.
ALTON HENSON: Well, right now we're registered with FEMA and all of them, and apparently they're supposed to give us temporary housing, or they'll put trailers on our property until we rebuild and stuff. So we're just waiting for that. But they can't do nothing until we're considered a disaster.
HOSSAINI: Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom asked the Trump administration to declare the latest blazes, including the Glass Fire, a major disaster. Meanwhile, the weather is starting to cooperate with weary fire crews in the form of calmer winds, cooler temperatures and clearer skies over the weekend, which allowed aircraft to fly over the steep and rugged terrain and make some big gains. Cal Fire spokesman Erick Hernandez's office in St. Helena is located not far from where the blaze began.
ERICK HERNANDEZ: I can tell you that looking out my window for the past week, I haven't seen the beautiful mountains that we're known for. So it's very refreshing to see the mountains again.
HOSSAINI: At a community briefing Sunday, Cal Fire Incident Chief Sean Norman was cautiously optimistic.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
SEAN NORMAN: We're feeling good about our lines. We're not done with this fire yet. It's been a stubborn fire. We don't consider the fire contained or controlled. It'll be weeks before we get to that benchmark, but that does not mean that we feel an imminent threat to any specific community.
HOSSAINI: Officials say they are handpicking local firefighters or those with previous experience in problem areas to help keep it that way.
For NPR News, I'm Sarah Hossaini in Santa Rosa, Calif.
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