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News Wrap: Firefighters race to protect neighborhoods from massive Thomas fire

In our news wrap Tuesday, the Thomas fire, with flames hundreds of feet high, became the fifth largest fire in California's history, spreading from Ventura County to the coastal ridges near Santa Barbara. Also, federal terrorism charges were filed against the suspect in yesterday's failed New York City subway bombing.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news, thousands of firefighters in Southern California are racing against the clock to prevent a massive wildfire from spreading into nearby neighborhoods.

    The Thomas Fire has burned more than 234,000 acres in just over a week. But it's still only 20 percent contained.

    William Brangham has our report.

  • William Brangham:

    With flames hundreds of feet high, the Thomas Fire burned across coastal ridges near Santa Barbara. It's the ninth straight day this fire has burned in California. Overnight, in the foothills, residents watched the blaze in awe and horror.

  • Case Vanzeyl:

    We have a great view every day here of what's going on. And it's creeping up, it's creeping up, it's creeping up, and today is the scariest day so far.

  • William Brangham:

    Now the fifth largest fire in the state's history, the Thomas Fire expanded northwest from Ventura County to Santa Barbara. The fire continues to march deeper inside Los Padres National Forest and up the coastline.

    On those hard-to-reach ridges, crews started their own controlled fires, burning dry grass, in the hope that the larger blaze won't then be able to spread to the homes below.

  • Capt. Dave Zaniboni:

    What the purpose of this is, is to burn off this whole bowl of vegetation and create a huge buffer between the east end of Santa Monica Canyon and the west end of Santa Monica Canyon.

  • William Brangham:

    The challenge lies in finding safe footing on the deep canyon walls for firefighters to take a stand. Below, ash-covered plants looked like a fresh snowfall, while smoke suffocated neighborhoods.

  • Woman:

    Mandatory evacuations.

  • William Brangham:

    Tens of thousands of people remain evacuated across the affected counties. Officials say the blaze has destroyed more than 680 homes, including Arthur Hurtz's, whose house, and everything around it, burned down to the ground.

  • Arthur Hurtz:

    It's charred tree trunks. There is no vegetation. It's like — it's just dirt. It's like sand. It's like completely gone.

  • William Brangham:

    The roaring blaze shows no sign of slowing, as warnings about the unpredictable Santa Ana winds and continued lack of moisture extend through the week.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm William Brangham.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    California officials estimate that it's cost more than $48 million so far to fight the massive Thomas Fire.

    Federal terrorism charges were filed today against the suspect in yesterday's failed New York City subway bombing. Prosecutors said that Akayed Ullah, an immigrant from Bangladesh, wanted to set off a homemade bomb during the morning rush hour to — quote — "maximize destruction."

    Meanwhile, in Washington, President Trump again called on Congress to overhaul the nation's immigration system, in the wake of a pair of terror incidents carried out by immigrants.

  • President Donald Trump:

    There have now been two terrorist attacks in New York City in recent weeks carried out by foreign nationals here on green cards. The first attacker came through the visa lottery and the second through chain migration. We're going to end both of them. The lottery system and chain migration, we're going to end them, fast.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yesterday's blast happened less than two months after an immigrant from Uzbekistan plowed his truck into a bike path near the World Trade Center, which led to the deaths of eight people.

    President Trump is facing a new wave of calls for a congressional investigation, after more than a dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct.

    Our Lisa Desjardins has more on that and on the growing number of other sexual misconduct allegations that have recently come to light.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    From Democrats in Congress, who pushed two of their own to resign last week, a turn to the president.

  • Rep. Brenda Lawrence:

    Mr. President, you don't live under a different set of rules.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Today, 54 Democratic congresswomen called on the House Oversight Committee to investigate allegations President Trump groped or otherwise sexually harassed women before he took office.

  • Rep. Lois Frankel:

    Sexual abuse will not be tolerated, whether it's by a Hollywood producer, the chef of a restaurant, a member of Congress or the president of the United States. No man or woman is above the law.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The president has denied all charges. But New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and five other senators have said he should resign.

    In a tweet, the president swung back, writing that Gillibrand previously came to him — quote — "begging for campaign contributions," saying she — quote — "would do anything for them."

    That set off a reaction firestorm of reaction — from the senator herself.

  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand:

    It was a sexist smear attempting to silence my voice. And I will not be silent on this issue.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And others on the left.

    Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal-

  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal:

    The president's tweet this morning against Senator Gillibrand was a disgraceful sexist slur.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the president's tweet was in no way sexual.

  • Sarah Sanders:

    I think only if your mind is in the gutter would you have read it that way.

    He's obviously talking about political partisan games that people often play.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Also on the Hill today, a New York Times report detailed the inner workings of Republican Representative Blake Farenthold's office, calling it a hostile work environment rife with sexual innuendo.

    The Texas congressman used $84,000 of taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim with a former staffer three years ago.

    Allegations of sexual assault also hit the sports world today. The NFL Network suspended three of its analysts after a former stylist, Jami Cantor, accused them of inappropriate touching and showing her their genitals. Cantor claims four additional employees also sexually harassed her.

    And a CBS News report chronicled recent sexual assault and harassment of female cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy, something the Pentagon says has been on the rise since 2007.

  • Emily Hazen:

    I was sexually assaulted my freshman year. And the sexual harassment I endured eventually made me leave.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The women interviewed by CBS say the Academy failed to report the attacks or reprimand their attackers.

    The head of the Academy defended how they handle such cases, but also said-

  • Man:

    I'm disgusted by those reports, I mean, just like you.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Lisa Desjardins.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is speaking out against two of President Trump's most controversial court nominees.

    Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa told CNN that he's advised the White House to reconsider the nominations of Jeff Mateer, who was tapped to become a federal judge in Texas, and Brett Talley, who was selected to serve in Alabama. Both have faced scrutiny over controversial remarks they have made in the past.

    The stock market was mostly mixed today, but two indexes again hit record highs. The Dow Jones industrial average surged 118 points to close at 24,504, a new record. The Nasdaq fell more than 12 points, and the S&P 500 rose four, a record for it as well.

    And a passing of note- San Francisco's mayor died unexpectedly overnight. Democrat and former civil rights lawyer Ed Lee became the first Asian-American to lead the city in 2011. Lee oversaw a technology-driven economic boom, and worked to create more affordable housing. He was also a staunch defender of San Francisco's sanctuary city policy toward immigrants. Ed Lee was 65 years old.

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