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Wildfires In Northern And Southern California


David, I gather you've got some wildfires going across California today.


Yeah, really. A lot of people were worried this weather was just a perfect recipe for fires. And they sure have arrived. You could smell the smoke, even along the beaches in LA last night.

INSKEEP: ...Smell the smoke. Well, they are the two major fires. North of San Francisco, there's a fire called the Kincade Fire - more than 16,000 acres burning. And then we have 50,000 people near you, David, in canyons around Los Angeles who've evacuated. And Jacob Margolis is on the line. He's a reporter for NPR's member station KPCC in Southern California. And he's going to begin his reporting with the story of one man fighting the fire. He joins us by Skype. And, Jason, who is this person, and what did he face?

JACOB MARGOLIS, BYLINE: Yeah. So the guy's name...

INSKEEP: Jacob. Jacob, I mean to say.

MARGOLIS: The guy's name is Richard Thorpe (ph). And like the other 50,000 people that were under evacuation orders in LA County, he encountered the fire and smoke and all sorts of problems. And so he was on his way home from work, riding his bike, when he saw a wall of smoke. He saw neighbors racing away in their cars, trying to get away, telling him, turn around. Get out of here. So he arrived at his house, he pulled out a ladder and he grabbed a hose. And then he did this.

RICHARD THORPE: It was like a firestorm. It was a storm. It was bad. So I got my hose out and jumped on the roof and started fighting the fire. It was bad. It took out probably four houses that I could see at the moment I was there. All my neighbors were outside helping each other out. We got lucky.

MARGOLIS: So while structures around him burned, he was able to wet things down enough. And some of his neighbors came together in moving up brush and whatnot, to possibly stop that one house from - and that one little block of houses from going up in flames. Who knows, maybe it was just the changing wind. But this isn't actually that unique of a story. These fires are fast moving. There are a ton of people dealing with them. And people's lives are being threatened constantly - it feels like all the time right now, especially...

INSKEEP: Jacob, I feel compelled to add some advisory, like, do not try this at home. Do not try to save your home at home, if you haven't made proper preparations. He acknowledged himself, he was lucky not to be dead. Is that correct?

MARGOLIS: Absolutely. I mean, he said he could feel the flame. It was like - flames - it was like looking into hell. And you know he wasn't - they were under evacuation orders, actually, at that time when that happened. And obviously they knew to get out right away when it started. But these things move so fast and start so fast that fire crews hadn't even gotten to that spot yet. And so, you know, people have to address - adjust how they can. But yeah, Richard probably should have gotten out of there.

INSKEEP: Sounds like, from the description, that most people did. He saw people fleeing as he went back to his house on the bike, which is an amazing detail. Is he OK now?

MARGOLIS: Yeah. You know, I caught up with him at the Vons, the blacked-out Vons last night. And he was just kind of realizing what had happened. And he was just kind of taking a moment for himself. And a lot of people were doing that in the Vons parking lot, just trying to get a drink, have a snack and kind of recoup, realize what their next steps were going to be.

INSKEEP: Hard day of firefighting and go get a drink.

MARGOLIS: Absolutely.

INSKEEP: Jacob, thanks so much for the update.

MARGOLIS: Yeah. Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's Jacob Margolis with NPR's member station, KPCC. And again, we have major fires in both Northern and Southern California today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.