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Wildfires Raging Across Southern California

More than a dozen wildfires continue to tear through Southern California. Half a million people have been evacuated and nearly two thousand buildings destroyed.

Madeleine Brand reports from San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium, where thousands are taking shelter. Brand visits a neighborhood in San Diego County where residents are returning to their homes. The neighborhood has a distinctly post-apocalyptic feel.

One man returned home to find his house still intact, but found that a few of his friends' homes were destroyed — including one that was nothing more than ash, and broken pieces of tile and concrete. He and another neighbor are trying to make sure no other houses in their neighborhood wind up the same way.

A few years ago, the fire department went around to San Diego County neighborhoods advising people to clear the underbrush from around their homes. Many of the homeowners who did not heed the fire department's advice lost their homes.

Also, pilot Lynn McGrew, who has been flying air tankers and dumping fire retardant on the raging fires, says the wildfires are very spotty and unpredictable, making it difficult to fight.

Every year, pilots like McGrew go through training that prepares them to fly thought the fire zones — ideally at an altitude of 150 feet.

The wildfires are so widespread across Southern California that the airbase McGrew is flying out of nearly caught fire. However, she says the fire was contained and she was able to continue her mission combating the wildfires.

McGrew talks to Alex Chadwick about the situation.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.