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Weary California crews fighting unpredictable fires prepare for worst yet to come

Across California, 17 major wildfires are burning, the most devastating in the north. Overnight, the Mendocino Complex Fire grew into the largest in state history, breaking a record set just eight months ago. As Nick Schifrin reports, officials admit the expanding fire season is taking a heavy toll on their resources.

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  • Nick Schifrin:

    Wildfires up and down California are still burning out of control this evening, with no relief coming anytime soon.

    Wary crews are fighting the heat, the wind and the fires, ranging from a huge combination of blazes in the north to a new one spreading in the south.

    Smoke from the Holy Fire rose with the morning sun, and flames tore through dry brush of the Cleveland National Forest. The fire outside Los Angeles started late yesterday, and quickly tripled in size. By this morning, it had already scorched 4,000 acres. This area hasn't burned in nearly four decades. Many residents were caught off-guard and didn't heed the original evacuation order.

  • Tilson Shumate:

    It's an incredible sensation to be in this and to be faced with life and death. Like, we think we're ready to die, but are we? I don't know, man. I don't want to go like this. Get us out of here.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    In California and many Western states, fire season isn't new, but the intensity and scope of the devastation are.

    Hotter weather attributed to climate change drives more severe conditions that authorities say residents cannot ignore.

  • Mike Mohler:

    It can't be white noise anymore, because this not going to change. It's here and we're going to have to deal with it.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Deputy director of Cal Fire, Michael Mohler, says California's wildfires are burning faster, longer and more unpredictably.

    August is only the middle of the fire season, and Mohler warns he expects the worst is yet to come.

  • Mike Mohler:

    With the conditions we're seeing right now, the weather patterns that are lining up, working with our partners from the National Weather Service, we don't see this changing anytime soon. Our firefighters, our enforcement, first-responders are preparing for — really for this to continue.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Across the state, 17 major wildfires are burning, the most devastating in the north.

    Overnight, the Mendocino Complex fire grew into the largest in state history, breaking a record set just eight months ago. It's incinerated more than 290,000 acres. Fire officials say they're focused on protecting some 11,000 threatened homes. Some have already been lost.

  • Man:

    What can you say? It makes you sick to your stomach. Everything they work for all their life gone a heartbeat.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Officials admit the expanding fire season is taking a heavy toll on their resources. More than 14,000 firefighters are working in California, and the fire season is more than two months longer than it used to be. But they vow to keep fighting.

  • Mike Mohler:

    One of the things we say in the fire service is, not only take care of yourself, but you need to take care of your fellow partner and personnel and keep an eye on them. You have to have that downtime. But I can tell you that all first-responders are in it for the long haul. It's what we do.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And there's no end in sight. Firefighters are facing another record-breaking fire burning through Yosemite National Park.

    Officials today said the park will remain closed indefinitely.

    In the day's other news, Rescuers in Indonesia pulled another survivor from the ruins left by Sunday's powerful earthquake. The death toll rose to at least 105, as crews combed through debris on Lombok Island. Thousands of villagers are growing desperate for aid.

  • Man (through translator):

    Our tent accommodates six families. It's very hot during the day and we are drenched with sweat. But the night is chilling. We need blankets, and the children also need some cold and cough medicine and milk. We also have two seniors here who have difficulty moving around and need help.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The aid organization Oxfam estimates more than 20,000 people are in need of shelter. Thousands more are camping in the open air.

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