Wildfires Rip Through Southern California Wildfires are ripping through the Los Angeles area, forcing people from their homes. Weekend Edition Host Liane Hansen speaks with NPR's Carrie Kahn to find out more about the destruction that the fire is causing.
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Wildfires Rip Through Southern California

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Wildfires Rip Through Southern California

Wildfires Rip Through Southern California

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

From NPR News, this is Weekend Edition. I'm Liane Hansen. Wildfires whipped by Santa Ana winds continued to ravage parts of Southern California yesterday. They've destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands of people to evacuate. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared states of emergency in three counties. NPR's Carrie Kahn is in Los Angeles. Carrie, what's the latest?

CARRIE KAHN: The fires are still burning. They're burning in four different counties. The damage estimates are going to be difficult. It's going to take a while to get the full damage estimates. But we do have hundreds of homes burned in Orange County. We have at least 500 homes in a mobile home park that were burned in the northern edge of Los Angeles. It's just been a devastating two days here in Southern California.

HANSEN: What was it like when these people who own these 500 homes were told that they were gone?

KAHN: It was just a heart-wrenching scene. I was in a high school gym auditorium where the hundreds of residents had been evacuated, most of them senior citizens, I have to tell you that. And they were gathered there glued to the television sets that had been put in a Red Cross shelter in this gymnasium. And the Los Angeles fire captain came back to tell them he did not have good news for them, and he geographically described where the fire - he just said it devastated the entire park. And there were loud gasps, and people were crying aloud. It was just - hugging each other - it was just a terrible scene.

Then he produced a charred American flag that he had brought back from a burned home and told them that he had brought it as a symbol of hope and the bravery of the firefighters there. Himself - this is a man who is a veteran of the Los Angeles Fire Department - broke down and apologized to these residents that they just were unable to make a stand here at this mobile home park. This is a devastating loss for this fire department. It really is. They haven't lost a home in quite a long time.

HANSEN: How is the situation with power and water?

KAHN: It is really difficult. There has been - especially in Orange County, there was a time when water pumps broke. They couldn't get enough water pressure. They attribute that loss of pressure and water to losing a multimillion-dollar complex in Yorba Linda. There were water problems yesterday in several areas.

You know, the reservoirs throughout Southern California are incredibly low because of the drought conditions, and so they have been asking people to conserve water. And then at one point, the power transmission lines coming into Los Angeles were threatened. And the mayor said, unless people conserve energy, that there may be rolling blackouts in the city. And we did see power losses in many parts of the city.

HANSEN: NPR's Carrie Kahn in Los Angeles. Carrie, thanks.

KAHN: You're welcome.

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