Firefighters In California Are Busy With Fast-Moving Blazes A wildfire that struck the Santa Barbara area over the weekend is part of a "new normal" of California fires: they hit populated areas hard and they spread fast.
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Firefighters In California Are Busy With Fast-Moving Blazes

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Firefighters In California Are Busy With Fast-Moving Blazes

Firefighters In California Are Busy With Fast-Moving Blazes

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Firefighters across California are dealing with several big wildfires. A fire that started in Northern California has now jumped to Oregon. Over the weekend, heat and dry winds sparked fires across the Central Coast. And in Southern California, a fire in the city of Goleta destroyed more than a dozen homes in just a couple hours. Tyler Pratt of member station KCBX has a story.

TYLER PRATT, BYLINE: Goleta sits in Santa Barbara County and is home to hills and beaches and, usually, great weather. But last weekend, county officials were definitely on edge.

KELLY HOOVER: It was an unbelievable night. I went out to dinner, and you could just feel, just, the heat.

PRATT: Kelly Hoover is with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.

HOOVER: All you could think about is, please, don't let there be a fire. This would not be good, especially with the wind that was going on at the same time. It was just bizarre.

PRATT: The fire was first reported around just before 9 p.m. on Friday night. Dana Driskel remembers the smell.

DANA DRISKEL: I couldn't believe anybody would be foolish enough to be doing a barbecue, but I could smell smoke. And then I realized, oh, my God. It's right over on the other side of the hill, and it's coming this way. And that's when I yelled for you to go.

PATTY DRISKEL: And he said, the big one's here. Let's get out. We've got to get out now.

PRATT: That's Patty Driskel, Dana's wife. Like a well-oiled machine, Santa Barbara County's fire emergency and public safety teams went into action. Five-hundred firefighters from across the state descended on the blaze. Thousands of people were issued mandatory evacuation orders. Nicole Jordan was with her elderly mother at a Red Cross shelter.

NICOLE JORDAN: They do this to us every year. So we're always at risk. I left because the police came - get out, get out.

PRATT: In the days that followed, people began returning to their homes and to find out if they still have one. Patty Driskel's home survived. Others didn't.

P. DRISKEL: Lots of times, there's a fire and you've got a little bit of preparation. There was none last night.

PRATT: Jesse Riley, a teenager, came back with his friends to see if his dirt bike made it through the night. He said these fires and evacuations...

JESSE RILEY: This is just normality now. And it's a pretty regular thing.

PRATT: 2017 was California's most destructive wildfire season on record, and several parts of Santa Barbara County are still recovering from last year's fires. And with low humidity and dry conditions in the forecast, the fire chief recently reminded residents they've got a long summer ahead.

For NPR News, I'm Tyler Pratt in Goleta, Calif.

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