STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Maybe you've seen this video. Somebody is driving a Southern California freeway at night. You see those familiar green-and-white highway signs in the headlights, and beyond them, you see enormous California hillsides from top to bottom on fire. KPCC reporter Mary Plummer is covering the Southern California fires. She's on the line from Pasadena. Hi, Mary.
MARY PLUMMER, BYLINE: Hi there.
INSKEEP: What's it like to be in Southern California right now?
PLUMMER: You know, it's been a crazy couple of days here. The wind is really a big factor right now. Anyone in the LA area can feel the strong Santa Ana winds going on. We had emergency alerts going off last night, cellphone alerts that were coming through. There have been road closures, school closures. There's really a lot happening and a lot changing fast with these fires. So there's a sense that everyone really needs to stay alert and pay attention because we've had a lot going on the last couple days.
INSKEEP: What kinds of stories have you been hearing from people?
PLUMMER: So, you know, the Thomas fire is really the biggest concern right now. This is taking place north of Los Angeles in Ventura County. It's been moving fast. It's been consuming a really huge amount of land; well over 90,000 acres have burned. Many people affected by that fire are sheltering at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. That's been set up as an evacuation center. Patricia Hampton (ph) is one of them. She's homeless - one of the many homeless people impacted by this fire - and her tent that she lived in burned down in the Thomas fire.
PATRICIA HAMPTON: It was surreal. The entire town was pitch black. I looked to my left - the hillside was on fire. I looked to my right and it was just coming over the ridge - huge flames. We stood there for about 15 minutes not sure what to do. It was unbelievable.
INSKEEP: I'm just trying to get my mind around someone who's homeless to begin with and loses even their tent. Are most people able to get out of the way?
PLUMMER: You know, evacuations have been a challenge. We've seen some people resisting evacuating, which authorities have really urged people not to do. Everyone's - you know, at all of these press conferences going on, the message to residents is really to be ready, to be packed and be ready because these winds are changing so fast, the fire conditions have been very unpredictable.
INSKEEP: I'm thinking about the fact that you have to leave everything behind in an emergency situation like this, maybe even including animals.
PLUMMER: Yes. And, you know, we've seen some incredibly - really devastating and sad stories related to animals. Nearly 30 horses died in a fire in the neighborhood of Sylmar, which is north of LA in the San Fernando Valley. The LA Times had posted video on their website that showed the horses had been trapped in their paddocks. One shot showed a horse that died that had been locked in with a padlock. So very sadly some of these animals aren't able to get out. A lot of the local shelters are taking in these animals, so people are encouraged to bring them there.
INSKEEP: Mary, thanks very much.
PLUMMER: Thank you.
INSKEEP: That's Mary Plummer, reporter with our member station KPCC.