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Over 2 million acres have burned in California — and fire season is just beginning

Record wildfires are still raging across vast swaths of California. The flames have burned more than 2 million acres, destroying scores of homes and other buildings. Hundreds of people have been stranded by the exploding blazes, requiring rescue by helicopter in dangerous condition. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that the unprecedented fires are proof of climate change. Stephanie Sy reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Record wildfires are still marching across vast swathes of California tonight and claiming new victims.

    Fourteen fire crew members were injured today, with three of them hospitalized. The fires have also destroyed scores of homes and other buildings and left hundreds of people to be rescued.

    Stephanie Sy has our report.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    The glow of destructive flames is consuming many parts of the Golden State. A record-breaking two million-plus acres have burned, and the fire season is barely under way, proof of climate change, said Governor Gavin Newsom today.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom:

    But I quite literally have no patience for climate change deniers. It simply follows — completely inconsistent, that point of view, with the reality on the ground.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    The wildfires are sparing no corner of California, with some 20 fire conglomerates blazing. Several of those are almost completely uncontained.

    In Fresno County, the Creek Fire exploded over the weekend in the Sierra Nevada mountains, destroying many homes and trapping campers who had descended on the area for the Labor Day weekend. People were rescued in tough conditions by helicopters dispatched by the Navy and California National Guard.

    Officials monitoring the massive Bobcat Fire near Los Angeles are warning of possible evacuations and urging non-residents to stay away.

  • Chris Marks:

    We do ask the public, if you don't live in the area, please stay out of the area. If you live along the foothills, in the potentially affected areas, you have time now. Please make preparations for what you want to take with you if you do need to evacuate.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    The wildfires are ignited by both natural forces and human activity. The El Dorado fire system is believed to have sparked when a family used pyrotechnics for a baby's gender reveal party.

    Linda Corchran and her husband, who were forced to flee in their motor home, are angered by the negligence.

  • Linda Corchran:

    I am upset that people are stupid. I am angry, but not surprised.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    For firefighters on the front lines there, the fight is taking a toll.

  • Man:

    Three hours of sleep yesterday. It was a good fight last night.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    To prevent more fire ignitions, Pacific Gas & Electric, the state's largest power provider, says it's had to cut electricity to tens of thousands of customers in 22 counties.

    The record-breaking fires, under record-breaking temperatures, are adding stress to communities coping with the pandemic.

  • Eloisa Smith:

    I get it. I wear the mask, obviously, for the COVID. But then it does help out with the fact that there are ashes everywhere. As you can see, there's ash all over my car. So, you just got to deal with it.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Multiple crises colliding in California, the most populous state in the country.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy.

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