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‘Nearly every acre’ in California has potential to burn, state fire official warns

Hot, dry conditions continue to fuel over a dozen wildfires in California, mostly in the state's northern quarter. Fire officials said they were seeing a "generational destruction of forests." Six of the seven largest fires on record in California have happened in 2020 or 2021, and at the current rate, fires this year are expected to burn more land than they did last year. Lisa Desjardins reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Hot and dry conditions continue to fuel more than a dozen wildfires in California, mostly in the northern part of the state.

    Fire officials said they are seeing a generational destruction of forests.

    As Lisa Desjardins reports, at the current rate, fires this year are expected to burn more land than they did last year.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Dozens of homes reduced to ashes, burned-out cars, firefighters sorting through the rubble, this is the devastation left after the Cache Fire tore through a mobile home park in Clearlake, California, yesterday.

  • Question:

    Your house?

  • Man:

    It's gone. All gone up here. It's ash. I don't even recognize it.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The historic drought and high winds are fueling more than 100 large wildfires across the American West. They have burned across some 2.5 million acres so far.

    In California, more than a dozen large fires are threatening tens of thousands of homes. In the north, the Dixie and Caldor fires are continuing to burn through forests and small rural towns.

  • Daniel Berlant, Assistant Deputy Director, Cal Fire:

    Nearly every acre of California has the potential to burn these days.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Daniel Berlant from California's state fire agency says firefighters are devoted, but stretched.

  • Daniel Berlant:

    Many of them haven't seen their family in weeks. And so that takes an emotional toll on our firefighters.

    And the fact that we're having this nonstop activity in July and August is going to be a major problem, because this activity may not stop for many more months to come, at least until the rainy season starts, which, based on drought conditions, may not come until December, January, February, if we're lucky.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The Dixie Fire, the largest single fire in California's history, has been burning for more than a month.

    While climate change and other factors are making the state's wildfire season longer and more intense every year, the pace at which the Dixie Fire has spread is unprecedented, according to state officials. The fire has forced thousands of people to evacuate and destroyed at least 1, 200 buildings so far.

    Derek Shaves, Resident of Grizzly Flats: It was a beautiful, close, small, vibrant community of mixed peoples. It's — it's nothing now.

  • Jill Tucker, The San Francisco Chronicle:

    We're talking about very fast moving fires, very unpredictable fires, very dangerous fires

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Jill Tucker reports for The San Francisco Chronicle, and has been speaking to those uprooted. Some, like this couple, loaded what they could into their truck.

  • Jill Tucker:

    One woman said she just didn't think this was going to happen, so she didn't even bring clothes. And I had to break the news to her yesterday that her home was gone. All that was left was a little rock with a couple of cuddling turtles on top, and everything else was mangled metal and ash.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Everyone is unsure about the future.

  • Jill Tucker:

    Where is it safe from rising sea levels or earthquakes or fires? Do you move out of state? And then what do you face there? Tornadoes or hurricanes.

    So, I think that there are a lot of people reconsidering about where they want to live, but there are a lot of people who just want to rebuild.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But, for right now, the biggest challenge for fleeing residents is finding a safe place to stay.

  • Woman:

    Look at all these people that are misplaced now. Where are they going to go?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.

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