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Raging Southern California Wildfires; Bin Laden Audiotape
Aired October 22, 2007 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen, in today for Kyra Phillips.
You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
LEMON: Well, it's worse than firefighters ever imagined and getting worse by the hour. Malibu is burning. Nearly 250,000 people in the San Diego area are fleeing, including hospital patients and nursing home residents. And the flames, well, they are surging forward -- back -- get this -- hurricane-force wind.
Through it all, you shared your breathtaking I-Reports with us. Well, we'll show you much, much more and we'll take you live right inside the flames.
We're looking at some live pictures now. It appears to be some sort of a school with a track there that they're zooming in on.
A lot of schools there. People not in school today, of course. They've been evacuated. Nursing homes, as we've said, and even hospitals being evacuated.
Why don't we start with that Witch fire. And it is wicked.
Tens of thousands of people near San Diego have already fled the flames. And more could follow.
We'll start on the ground with our live coverage in San Diego County, California, and CNN's Kara Finnstrom.
Kara, 250,000 people?
KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, wicked, I think, is the perfect word to describe this fire, because everywhere we look, it is dark, it is difficult to see through. There's just this grime and grit that is flying through the air. If you take a look behind me, you can just see how thick the smoke is.
We traveled across San Diego a little bit earlier, about an hour and a half ago. And everywhere we drove, there was the thick smoke.
It is very difficult to actually see where the fire is popping up. It is spreading quickly. And that is causing a lot of concern for the people who have not evacuated from their homes. Here's what the mayor had to say a little bit earlier today about why they are trying to stage evacuations as quickly and as early as possible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR JERRY SANDERS, SAN DIEGO: This is an extremely quick- moving fire. Probably one like we've never seen before because of the strong winds and heavy smoke. And because of that, we're unable to use air assets, because they can't get close enough, they can't see, and it's hazardous. For that reason, we're trying to evacuate areas as quickly as we can ahead of the fire so that people will be out of that area by the time the fire comes through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FINNSTROM: And you're taking a look live here at some construction wood and materials that when we first arrived had already been doused by firefighters. They were out here very actively because there were huge flames shooting up dousing this, putting it out.
They drove away, and a short while ago it really started to flare up again. And this is, you know, just one good example of what they're seeing out here. It is very difficult to put this fire out and keep it out because the winds continue to jut flare it up again and spread these embers.
Now, if we take a look down the hill, you can see a bunch of electric workers down there. We have heard from fire officials, while they don't know the official cause of all these fires -- there's about six burning through the San Diego area -- they do suspect that the wind has brought down power lines in a number of areas and that that has sparked at least a number of these blazes.
And they are concerned about the high winds that are continuing to be forecast for tomorrow at least, and they worry that they could continue later on into the week. They say with those winds, it will be very difficult to get this fire under control.
Back to you.
LEMON: And Kara, we said that you're there on the ground, and I was wondering how far you are from that -- the lumber we see there. And then they panned back over. It looks like you're within 10 feet. Now, I imagine they're asking you guys to take some precautions, thus the reason for safety glasses and the jacket that you're wearing?
FINNSTROM: Exactly. Actually, I took these glasses off for a while earlier today, and you really can't keep them off because there is so much grit and grime flying through the air.
Lots of concern also for people with special health needs, and let alone from all of the evacuations that are absolutely necessary. They don't want to keep people with respiratory problems and elderly folks in this area. Also, I want to mention that we did get a call that one of the local hospitals is being evacuated. And I believe we have some new video in that we want to share with you of that hospital being evacuated. We've also heard from some area nursing homes where firefighters came by earlier in the morning just to check things out to say, listen, start to get your residents ready because we may need to evacuate at some point today.
LEMON: Right. Right. We spoke with someone just a short time ago as well, Kara, who will confirm what you're saying, that they are evacuating nursing homes and hospitals as well.
We appreciate your report. Stay safe.
Thank you, Kara Finnstrom.
NGUYEN: Well, from the high desert to the Ocean Pacific, much of southern California is just under siege, as you've been seeing in the live pictures that we've been bringing to you.
Meteorologist Chad Myers has been keeping track of all this, the wildfires and those winds.
Chad, we heard from Kara that those winds are not going to be letting up, at least not through tomorrow.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No, really probably Wednesday will be the first time they're going to lay down at all. Sometimes they do lay down in the afternoon when they're fighting each other from a west and a northeast direction, and then they lay down a little bit.
But we have some late-breaking here. This is really a brand-new fire that I want to get to you.
This is Lake Arrowhead. This literally only started literally this morning.
Here's Riverside, Santa Ana, and then back up here to San Bernardino. But up to the north, I mean, literally rim of the world, Lake Arrowhead basically on fire this morning.
The new updates that I have for you near the Grass Valley Golf Course, near Brentwood and Pinehurst and the Lake Arrowhead there. Also, people reporting their houses on fire and firefighters nowhere near.
Well, now the firefighters are in a different place. They are mainly looking at Malibu.
This is basically the top of the rim, all the way up 189, 173. Michael Beamis, one of the residents there, long-time resident there, on the phone with us right now.
Here are some of the pictures from KABC and they look devastating, Michael. What are you seeing? MICHAEL BEAMIS, LAKE ARROWHEAD, CALIFORNIA: Well, I am watching, as you said, ABC on Channel 7, and it's pretty devastating what I'm seeing. All morning I've been looking at the TV and nothing about Lake Arrowhead. And being I live here, it's good to see that they have (INAUDIBLE) here on Channel 7.
MYERS: Well, tell me what you're seeing on the ground so much with these -- I'm seeing at least a couple dozen homes in flames and not a firefight truck in sight.
BEAMIS: That's correct. I have two evacuees in my house right now that live right in the area where the fire was going through, Elliott (ph) and Kim (ph). And they didn't lose their home over by Grass Valley.
I did drive over this morning and they wouldn't let me through. There's a lot of smoke that direction.
Right where I'm at, I have blue sky above me, thank goodness. I'm about five miles from the fire. But it's moving pretty quick from -- in the Grass Valley toward Rim Forest, where I see it on TV. Lots of smoke and lots of wind. And I'm -- you know.
MYERS: Tell me about the wind. How has it been this morning? What was it like yesterday?
BEAMIS: It was very windy all day Saturday night and Sunday. And we kept hoping, hoped that we don't get a fire like we did four years ago.
And son of a gun, if one didn't break out from some downed wires. And a lot of the mountain roads, 18, M330 (ph) are closed to come up.
I'm up here at 5,000 feet. I'm not leaving until -- you know, I'm pretty safe right now. But there is another fire going on in Arrowbear, to my right about five miles, to my left about five miles.
MYERS: So, Michael, these fires are just popping up everywhere from the embers now, is that what you're feeling?
BEAMIS: Well, I don't know how the one in Arrowbear started, but the one in Grass Valley, I understand on TV they say it started from downed wires at a power station. And it's moving so quickly that one shot on TV showed five houses by Grass Valley Golf Course, in that area, in flames. And how many more, we don't see through the smoke. I don't know.
BEAMIS: They hopefully get stopped, because there's 1,500 homes it said on TV in the path of that.
MYERS: I have been watching this video, Michael, and there are more than five homes on fire right now.
BEAMIS: Oh boy. MYERS: I would say dozens, if not more. And they did follow this fire. They followed the blackening of the fire and the smoke all the way up to the power station. And you could literally see that that right there at the power station, who knows, a couple power lines crossed, you get a spark. The sparks hit that very tinder dry area.
You guys haven't had any rain for how long now? It's very dry.
BEAMIS: Oh, I know. It's a record, record low of rain.
The lake is dropping down. It's not terrible, but yes, we've had hardly any rain. And it makes it a real problem.
That's something you fear about being in the mountains. You know, you have to always kind of worry about it. And hopefully I don't have to evacuate. I know a lot of people, I feel bad for them, are having to leave the mountain, quickly.
MYERS: Well, here is some of the tape that we have. We turned this tape from about 15 minutes ago when the smoke wasn't so thick.
You really can't see anything on the live pictures right now, but there's a home on fire right there. The one next to it is on fire as well. Every once in a while we see a very black plume of smoke.
We're back to live again.
The black plumes of smoke usually tell me that those are cars on fire. These grays and light grays, typically say either trees or homes on fire.
And Michael, you have a problem up there. And people of Lake Arrowhead, you guys are in trouble today. The winds are not going to die down.
If you are downwind of this fire, downwind of the Grass Valley Golf Course, you need to be very careful and evacuate at this time.
A lot of these areas are being evacuated. Firefighting units are very thin up there right now. They were used for other places, and it's going to take some time to get firefighting back up there.
Michael, we're going to get back to you if we can later in the day. We're going to keep these pictures up as long as we can from our affiliate KABC. We do know you're up there. We hope for the best for all of you up there.
BEAMIS: Well, I thank you for talking.
MYERS: This is a fire really that didn't get its due. And earlier, we were talking so much about Malibu. And let me tell you guys, the fires down in San Diego County are worse than the fires in Malibu, without a doubt.
We have them on space imaging. We actually have them from the satellite showing how much smoke was coming out of them. And the fires down to San Diego County.
Two hundred and fifty thousand people now in the evacuation plan for San Diego County because of the placement of the weather, because of the placement of the storm. Lake Arrowhead here, the winds blowing out of the northeast.
And look at all of these roads. These roads are not lumber (ph) roads. These roads all have homes along them. It's a beautiful place in the country and it's in trouble this afternoon, or this morning out there -- firefighting efforts.
If you want to know more about this, I don't want to crash their Web site, but it is topoftheworld.net -- topoftheworld.net. And you'll be able to pick up all the things we're picking up here, where the fire's going, where the evacuations are.
If you live up there, you probably want to keep advised -- Don.
NGUYEN: Oh, absolutely. And you know, as you were talking, the signal was going in and out on some of the video, and that's because the winds are just blowing so hard.
We're trying to get information in, and sometimes it becomes very difficult because of that. But we do want to take you now, head back north to Malibu.
Some 1,400 firefighters are battling a blaze that has burned homes, buildings, even a castle.
CNN's Vince Gonzalez is there.
And I understand, Vince, that you're in front of a Presbyterian church that received the brunt of the fire yesterday.
VINCE GONZALEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. One ember we think from this fire landed on this church, totally engulfing it. Now it's just a blackened ruin.
Firefighters told us they got here as quick as they could, but the ember caught, the church went up. There was really nothing they could do.
I talked to the pastor (INAUDIBLE) earlier. He told us it's just a blackened shell. There's really nothing to salvage here.
The governor was actually just here surveying the damage. He stopped briefly and spoke to reporters. And he sort of said exactly what the mayor said to us earlier this morning, which is...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: It's a tragic time for California. The devastating fires have killed so far one person, they've injured four firefighters. Maria and I want to turn to all Californians to send our thoughts and prayers to the families of those victims. (END VIDEO CLIP)
GONZALEZ: That was actually the governor earlier at a press conference. When he was here, he said, "We live in paradise, but it's also kind of perilous." We have the conditions for these Santa Ana winds, for these large wildfires. It's part of living here, it's part of preparing for it. And he declared this area a disaster area so he could get aid in here as quick as possible and the other parts of California, where they need all the help they can with these blazes, especially if these winds continue to gust -- Betty.
NGUYEN: Yes, Vince. I want you to hold off for just a second.
A shot was coming in and out because of those winds that we've been talking about. But Chad Myers wants to join us now.
Because, Chad, I understand as we talk to Vince and look at what's left of that church, you have a photo of what it used to look like.
MYERS: Yes. This is a Virtual Earth, Microsoft Virtual Earth. And you can click right in onto where that church was when it was -- this was obviously pre-fire.
The winds and the fire came straight down the canyon and into the church itself. And that's not the only major structure that burned there.
There was a major castle just up to the north and to the northwest of that. And here we can actually zoom into that. I believe we're coming in.
This castle, just a beautiful, beautiful thing up on top of the hill. Anybody that's been there, it literally does look like a castle somewhere in Europe.
This burned yesterday. A devastating fire. Literally, they got nothing out. The homeowner said that she literally went out and got as many things out of the home as possible.
One of the things was one of Elvis' jumpsuits that she had kept for so, so many years. The rest of the castle and all of her belongings were destroyed.
And that Web site for the Lake Arrowhead, I might have said Top of the World. That's different. It's rimoftheworld.net. One word there -- Betty.
NGUYEN: All right. Thank you, Chad.
And we want to go back now to Vince Gonzalez, because we're getting some new video in, Vince, of the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger touring the burnt-out church there, the Malibu Presbyterian Church. And as we can see in this video, boy, there is not much left.
You still with us, Vince? I think we lost him.
LEMON: Yes, we've lost him. We can't hear him.
But you can see Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of course held a press conference just a short time ago. And we were talking about the castle as well as that church. And he's obviously saying that this is devastating and we have to deal with certain things.
So there is the governor touring the church that you were talking about.
We're going to talk -- you heard Chad mention, and the person who's on the phone, Betty, talk about the new fire in Lake Arrowhead. Looking at live pictures now. This is Lake Arrowhead, California.
Just see the fires and the smoke there. Many of these fires started by embers.
NGUYEN: That were jumping over ridges.
LEMON: That were jumping over ridges because of the wind.
We're going to continue to update you on this -- 250,000 people now evacuated out of their homes in California.
The CNN NEWSROOM continues.
LEMON: Absolutely right, breaking news.
A new audiotape reported to be Osama bin Laden's voice.
Joining us now is our senior Arabic editor and adviser here, Octavia Nasr.
Tell us about this tape and what's on it.
OCTAVIA NASR, CNN SR. ARAB AFFAIRS EDITOR: Al-Jazeera just aired what they are claiming to be an audio by Osama bin Laden. I heard the audio, it sounds like bin Laden. But we wait for official confirmation from intelligence agencies who know how to check his audio.
Basically it is a message that we haven't heard before. It does not have any time markers, so we cannot determine for sure when it was taped, when it was recorded. But basically, he's addressing the people of Iraq.
He has what seems to be a new message, basically when he called on Iraq earlier to attack anyone who deals with infidels. In this message he's calling on all Iraqis of all factions to unify under the flag of the Nation of Islam, basically calling on the religious leaders and tribal leaders, everybody to get people under Islam, basically saying don't follow leaders, don't follow groups, don't follow countries, follow Islam. A very different message from Osama bin Laden. Like I said, it is something that we haven't heard before. And it definitely shows a shift in the way he is looking at what's going on in Iraq.
LEMON: And you say it shows a shift. A shift in what way? What do you mean by that? It's showing a shift in what could happen, how he's asking people to unify? Is it against American forces or forces that are within the country?
How is this a shift?
NASR: The portions that we heard do not say against whom, but we obviously know who he wants the forces to be against. Definitely the American forces, the coalition, and anyone who aids them.
What's interesting about this message is that the last message we heard from bin Laden about Iraq, he was calling on people basically to fight each other. I remember on the set we talked about how he's basically pitting Sunnis against Shiites, telling them, look, it doesn't matter if you're killing other Muslims, what matters is that you should get rid of anyone who aids the Americans in their work in Iraq.
Here there is a shift. Some people like myself, when you monitor bin Laden on a regular basis, you listen to his messages, you know where he's going. You have to take this as a sign of weakness that he is looking at Iraq and basically seeing that -- a split among the fighters, among the militants, among the insurgents, and basically he's calling on them to get back together and find one enemy. Because right now they're fighting each other. And it seems that he's seeing this as a failing proposition at this point.
LEMON: Octavia Nasr, we appreciate your insight. Thank you.
NASR: Any time.
NGUYEN: Well, we are definitely staying on top of those fires out in California, especially the one dealing with the Lake Arrowhead area.
Take a look at some new video that is coming in to CNN. In fact, Chad Myers is going to be joining me.
As you were talking to someone on the ground there just a few minutes ago, these are homes, Chad, on fire. As you can see, many people are on the ground trying to battle it as best they can. But the winds are not helping at all.
MYERS: Now, the winds are 25 to 30 (INAUDIBLE) up there to the north and northwest of there yesterday, last night. Literally had a gust of 101 miles per hour. That was a gust. There's nothing you can do with a gust like that.
It does damage, obviously. And one thing a gust like that will do is take power lines down. And those sparks -- those power lines down will start fires like this. This is obviously someone's home. This is a structure fire. And we see so many of these fires that are in the San Bernardino National Forest, or something like that. And they burn a bunch of trees.
Well, I'll tell you what, this Lake Arrowhead fire is going to be devastating to a lot of people, because there are trees here, yes, obviously, but look at all the structures that are on fire. And even the San Diego -- some of the police captains down there in San Diego County saying there are more fires than we have fire people to fight them and engines to put water on them.
And that's what Lake Arrowhead is seeing now. So you can almost see that the homes are on fire more than the trees are. And that's because of the way the embers are blown into the homes, onto the homes, onto the roofs. And this is going to be devastating for Lake Arrowhead.
We focus so much on a couple of fires in Malibu, and they were bad yesterday, don't get me wrong. We had the Pepperdine fires. But San Diego County, you guys are in such a world of hurt. A quarter of a million people now being evacuated from San Diego County.
Now, this is north. This is north of L.A., north-northeast of L.A., San Bernardino, and then points north.
You're actually up into the mountains here. This is a Lake Arrowhead community, oh, 3,000 to 5,000 feet high in the sky. A beautiful place.
And I gave you that Web site if you wanted to look at it again, rimoftheworld.net. And you can begin to see what and look on and log on -- I hope you still have power to do that -- if you are being evacuated in the Lake Arrowhead area. This was actually down because of some -- this actually started because of some power lines that came down near the substation.
Hey, Dave, can you run my Google Earth here for me? I'm going to actually show people where this is, kind of give you an idea.
We'll come back to the maps. I hate to leave those pictures.
Oh, here we go. We can double box them, we call it for you here.
Here's Santa Ana, here's riverside. L.A. way over here. And then the fire in Malibu way north of San Bernardino, up across the very high rim.
And 189, 173 coming into Lake Arrowhead here. And you'll begin to see all of the roads. I mean, this is just the most picture- perfect place maybe next to Lake Ponderay in Idaho that I've been, and obviously on up toward Lake Tahoe.
This is literally a natural lake here with all of these homes around it. I'm not exactly sure where the fire is. I do know it was by the Grass Valley Golf Course. But now because of the wind and because of these sparks blowing these embers so far and downwind, these fires are literally going everywhere now.
Here's Lake Arrowhead.
Now, Malibu still way up there. You can almost see, just about see there, if you could -- a little bit farther out -- there's the ocean.
So see how now we're putting it back north, because it's hard to see sometimes if we move the map if north isn't on top. And Lake Arrowhead would be right back there. And there's Malibu itself.
So, far, far away. Not attached at all. Different causes. They think probably the same cause, power lines down, but completely two different sets of power lines.
And then the San Diego County fires. Now, we're getting those on satellite. We can actually see the smoke from the satellite 22,000 miles in space from these fires now.
KABC keeping us up to date on this Lake Arrowhead fire. We probably know that there are others out there, that we just can't cover every single one.
This is almost like what it was like Thursday night for me, guys, when I had 27 different tornadoes on the ground all at the same time. I couldn't cover them all. And there are probably at least 27 different fires out of control. Very little containment here.
Here's the Malibu fire. This is the fire down here that actually took out the church and that castle. This is the Malibu fire itself.
The Malibu fire actually started way up on the rim, way up in the elevation, at least 3,000 or 4,000 feet above Malibu in the mountains here. And the sparks from those flames fell down onto Malibu and caused those fires. But you can really see -- there's the Malibu smoke, very, very little. Here's the Malibu up above in the mountain smoke.
An awful lot more fire up in the mountains. But the good news is, not as many structures up here in the mountains.
We can't say that about Lake Arrowhead. The mountainous area there really in trouble today.
We'll keep you up to date on that.
NGUYEN: Yes, it's really hard to visualize all of this, because we're talking about a lot of fires, Chad.
NGUYEN: The governor earlier said there were some seven, but even other reports indicate there are more than a dozen wildfires throughout southern California.
And just to understand where they are, and how fast the burning, of course, we'll come back to you for that. But I understand that we have someone on the ground that we're going to be going to very shortly.
Don, what do you have?
LEMON: Yes. Just want to look at those pictures a little bit longer.
You saw the -- not that it matters what type of homes it is, but in certain cases it does. If you look at the gables and the roofs of these homes, you see that these are large, expensive homes in that area there. And homes that have been there forever. Very stately, as Chad said, just picturesque, a beautiful area there in San Diego.
Where there's smoke, obviously there's some fire, right? And you can bet our I-Reporters are there trying to help us out. They sent us some of the most compelling images of the southern California wildfires today.
Our T.J. Holmes spent some time there in southern California as well.
So you're all too familiar, I'm sure, with these wildfires.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, with these fires, and these things are scary. Just to think sometimes we had to be taught when I was in California how you would have to cover these fires, and it seems strange that a fire can outrun you. You just can't take off running and get away from this fire.
So these things are scary. To see them this close to homes and this close to people, you really can't outrun them sometimes. They get to 40, 50 miles an hour, just taking off and moving like that.
But here are some of the images we're getting from our I- Reporters. Like you said, some of the best pictures we often get.
Here's one from Sudershan Paul. This is a Pepperdine student who says he got up on Sunday morning -- this was yesterday, getting ready to go to church. He steps outside and he pretty much sees hell, if you will.
Take a look at this picture right outside. Of course, Pepperdine was the university that was being threatened. Students had to -- were sent running. They had to take shelter there on campus.
The student, he's a 19-year-old. He's from Irving, Texas. Not used to, of course, seeing anything like this growing up in Irving, Texas. But he said the school did a pretty good job of keeping the students informed and sending them text messages and letting them know.
But still, he didn't know until he got up on Sunday morning, stepped outside his dorm, and that's what he saw. And these are some of the pictures he gave us.
Also, a short time ago we talked to James Fabin. He's in Irvine, California. Take a look at what he sent us here.
He said was on his way to the gym when he rolled up on this. The smoke all over the place, in the air.
The police were turning people around, redirecting them. He stopped, jumped out, and again, these are some of the best pictures we often get sometimes on stories from people who are right there. And they come up on some breaking news like this. And then they send those pictures to us.
So this was a scene he got from a parking lot.
Got a couple other pictures here we want to show you. One from Oxnard Shores. This one is from Hilal Helweh, another one of our I- Reporters.
Now, this is significant here. This is about 2:00, 3:00 in the afternoon. And in the distance you can see a part of one of these fires going, or you can see how it's illuminating the sky in the distance.
But this is some 25 miles away from the Malibu Canyon fire. It's a ways away, as you see right here.
So -- and again, this is 2:00 or something in the afternoon. He said it was pitch black around his house. He had every light on, couldn't see a thing.
But this just, again, some of the best images we get, Don, sometimes in breaking news situations. It never fails, they're from the people that are on the ground and send them to us. So, we appreciate it.
But again, as we always say, stay out of trouble and keep yourself -- keep yourself safe.
LEMON: Yes. You said it. Absolutely, keep yourself out of harm's way, as we like to say.
Keep checking on those I-Reporters for us, T.J. Thank you.
HOLMES: Oh, sure thing.
NGUYEN: Well, speaking of keeping people out of harm's way, Maurice Luque knows a lot about that. He's with the San Diego Fire and Rescue Department and he joins us on the phone right now.
I understand you've been part of a lot of rescues today. Talk to us about what people are experiencing.
MAURICE LUQUE, SAN DIEGO FIRE-RESCUE DEPT.: Well, our firefighters have been busy since late yesterday or early this morning rescuing a number of people, trying to save a number of homes in an area that's about 20 miles north of the downtown area, an area called Rancho Bernardo. But we have lost a number of homes. There's just not enough firefighters, there's just not enough fire engines to take care of all of the houses that are catching fire.
NGUYEN: Goodness. So let's take this apart. If you would, just very briefly, one piece at a time.
You've had to rescue a number of people. Now, is that because people just simply are not leaving their homes or trying to stay back and trying to save it?
LUQUE: Well, a combination of people not leaving when they should have, but also people who are elderly and sick and can't leave and need assistance. So we've had to go in there with ambulances and rescue them, go in there with engine crews and pull them out of houses.
There's some people that have had attacks of some sort while they're trying to evacuate the area. And in their cars, we've had to rescue them.
So it's been quite a challenge for our firefighters to be doing all this under some very stressful situations. And, you know, winds of 60 miles an hour and flame heights of 200 feet. It's been torturous.
NGUYEN: I can imagine. And just listening to you, it sounds like your breathing is a bit difficult. How is the smoke and just the conditions? How is it just wreaking havoc on the crews trying to fight this?
MAURICE LUQUE, SAN DIEGO FIRE-RESCUE DEPT.: Well, the crews are doing the best they can do. They've been working for 24 hours straight. Some of them are just now coming in for relief. Many of them can't leave the lines at this point in time, because there's too much at stake in terms of properties and lives.
NGUYEN: I want to bring in our Meteorologist Chad Myers who has been helping us with the coverage today. He has a few questions for you, Maurice.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Just the way the wind is actually blowing. We were getting something up from Malibu, and they were calling them not swirlie winds, they went so far as to call them squirrelly winds. They were coming from one direction and then blow back on the firefighters again. Are you seeing the same thing down there?
LUQUE: In certain areas, yes, we're seeing the exact same thing. In other areas we're just seeing winds blowing straight to the west at 40, 50, 60 miles an hour.
MYERS: We have a little Google Earth map showing where the fires are. Because I know, I think someone put out a number like eight fires, and then I got a number like 27 fires. But if we zoom in to San Diego County, and especially northeast of San Diego County, the number of fires may be well over 100 different hot spots. And I heard something that there were more fires than we have firefighters?
LUQUE: Well, I wouldn't say that. I wouldn't say we've got hundreds of fires.
LUQUE: Because we do have hundreds of firefighters. But we do have hundreds of spot fires, here and there.
MYERS: Spot fires, right.
LUQUE: That don't necessarily pose immediate danger. And we just don't give a priority to those fires that are starting up that just don't have life or property at stake. We have to focus our efforts where, you know, again, lives and property are in danger.
MYERS: We heard about all the evacuations. Precautionary, you've got one hour to get out, you've got 24 hours to get out, or do you know? Are you just evacuating anybody in the path of the downwind storm?
LUQUE: We've tried to give residents as much advance notice as possible so they can gather their thoughts, and gather their key belongings, and leave. But unfortunately sometimes that notice has only been about 30 minutes to allow them to do that.
Right now, there are hundreds and hundreds of evacuees and a number, dozens of evacuation centers that have been set up around the San Diego City and County area. The largest area where the evacuees are going is the parking lot of Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego Stadium, where the San Diego Chargers play.
NGUYEN: Maurice, let me ask you this, so we can get an understanding how far you've been able to really put down this fire, or if you've even been able to get to that point -- do you know if there's any kind of containment at this hour?
LUQUE: No, there is no containment at this hour. There's no expected containment at this hour. It's just that the winds continue to blow this fire into all kinds of other communities. And there is a fear that it will burn completely to the ocean.
NGUYEN: So what do you do now? What do you do? You say right now the fire hasn't outnumbered the firefighters. But if this is going to continue to blow, which we understand, according to Chad, in the weather reports, it's going to continue at least through tomorrow, what do you do? How do you contain this fire?
LUQUE: Well, the firefighters are strategically singling out those homes they think they can save and try to make efforts to save them. In many cases they've been successful. They continue to rescue people that need to be rescued. We continue to make water drops on the fire. You know, we're not -- we're not going to roll up our hoses and go home. We're hanging in there, doing what we can with what we've got.
NGUYEN: Absolutely. Of course, no one's expecting to do that, because you've got a lot of work on your hands and people are depending on you. Maurice Luque, with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. We appreciate your time today. Best of luck to you. Stay safe.
LUQUE: Thank you.
LEMON: I'm glad you said that, Betty. Sometimes you can't see the flames. Even if you can't see them, it doesn't mean that you're not in danger just from the smoke inhalation, in Southern California. We'll have more of what you can do, if you're in that area, to protect yourself.
NGUYEN: And reading, writing, arithmetic literally on the back burner. California's Pepperdine University, we'll get the scoop from the editor of the student newspaper. That's ahead right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we've been seeing in the past 20 minutes, we've seen at least 20 to 30 more homes completely involved with flame. What we do here is see every once in a while we'll get a little patch of smoke that clears, and then we'll zoom in to see another home. In fact, there's one right here. Absolute devastation through this area. You can see that one's completely destroyed and several right next to it.
Complete devastation through this area. We can't even see all the damage because of the smoke. What we have been noticing is every once in a while through the more than white smoke you see down here, we'll see a black plume come up. That's how we know another house has gone up.
This fire originated at -- the point of origin, a little further north of this power station, and has just rumbled through this area and claimed at least 40 to 50 homes we can see from Air 7. I'm sure that number's going to be much, much higher as soon as the smoke clears.
We are in between two fires. This is the Arrowhead Grass Valley fire. About five to 10 miles to our east is the Grass Valley Fire or Slide Fire. We have not had a chance to go over that fire yet just because of the devastation and the homes burning on this fire, we wanted to cover. But we're going to get fuel in a little bit at Big Bar and try to get you coverage from that Slide Fire. And hopefully it's not as devastating as this fire.
But here, again, we'll push into another black smoke and another home that just keeps burning through this area. It's just one after another, Jevon (ph), it's just an absolutely terrible scene.
NGUYEN: Yes, it is. Just devastating, especially for the families living there. Nothing you can do, just watch your home go up in smoke. That was a helicopter reporter from KABC over Lake Arrowhead. Not only are they having to watch these homes burn, but they're having to evacuate. Some of them are dealing with smoke inhalation in the meantime.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. It's a terrible, terrible thing because there is really not a whole lot that you can do to prepare yourself. Sometimes people think you take a wet rag, put it over your mouth, that's going to help. I suppose it couldn't hurt. But the authorities that we've read say that it really isn't going to do you very much good.
And the problem is that the smoke is not just a problem for people's lungs, which is obvious, it's also a problem, it can damage eyes, it can damage sinuses. If someone has a bad heart to begin with, it could cause rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath. What you can do -- if you're being evacuated obviously you need to get out. If you're not being evacuated, stay inside, close the doors and windows.
Put the air conditioning on and it will filter out some of this, and keep it on recycle so you are keeping the air within the house and you're not taking air from outside of the house. It goes without saying, don't exercise outdoors. Just be -- just be outdoors as little as possible.
NGUYEN: Be smart about it. Especially if you're watching all these homes go up in smoke. Just seeing the smoke and the -- a lot of times in the pictures, you can't see anything, what, 50 feet in front of you.
Now, we're seeing video, though, of people with those face masks on. Is that making a difference?
COHEN: You know, the authorities of different departments of public health and different states that have experienced wildfires, they say it really doesn't do much, those masks that you see people wearing. Sometimes those are called N-95 masks. They won't filter out the teeny, teeny particles that you get when you have a wildfire.
Again, it might make someone feel better. It might give some level of comfort. But it's not going to filter out the really bad stuff. It is not a solution.
NGUYEN: Really, the key is to stay indoors, if you're away from the fire. If you're not, get as far away as possible.
COHEN: As quickly as possible, yes.
NGUYEN: Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, thanks for your information today.
NGUYEN: We do appreciate it.
LEMON: Good common sense when you are out there dealing with that. The ultimate sacrifice, the highest honor, a navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan, he makes history.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today we add Lieutenant Michael Murphy's name to the list of recipients who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Deep in the mountains of Afghanistan this brave officer gave his life in defense of his fellow Navy SEALs. Two years later the story of his sacrifice humbles and inspire all who hear it.
By presenting Michael Murphy's family with the Medal of Honor that he earned, a grateful nation remembers the courage of this proud Navy SEAL.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: We're more than six years into the war in Afghanistan, a U.S. Navy SEAL, who fought and died there receives a medal of honor. The presentation ceremony just wrapped up at the White House, and the Medal of Honor is America's highest combat award. Lieutenant Michael Murphy is the first G.I. from the Afghan war to receive it. He and two other SEALs were killed in an ambush in 2005, as were 16 troops sent to rescue them. CNN's Barbara Starr has their story.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: June, 2005. In the 10,000-foot mountain peaks of Afghanistan's Hindu Kush, Lieutenant Michael Murphy led his four-man Navy SEAL team on a mission they knew could turn deadly.
DAN MURPHY, MICHAEL MURPHY'S FATHER: He was an incredible person, honest, kind, caring. Probably the antithesis of what you would consider a warrior.
MAUREEN MURPHY, MICHAEL MURPHY'S MOTHER: He was like very protective of other people, and he always stuck up for the underdog.
STARR: Dan and Maureen Murphy, and Michael's brother, John, now more than two years later, are receiving Michael's Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor in combat. Twenty-nine-year-old Michael and two teammates would be killed.
MARCUS LUTTRELL, NAVY PETT OFFICER 2ND CLASS: He was my best friend. He was a good man. He was -- everybody loved him.
STARR: Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell was the only man on the team to make it out. The SEALs were searching for a wanted terrorist. But they were spotted. A massive firefight broke out. It was four SEALs against more than 40 insurgents. Michael kept the men together.
LUTTRELL: He was in a horrible position. He left himself open so he could move back and forth to each individual guy. We were hurting bad. We were out of ammo.
STARR: All four men were shot. Then Michael walked into the open to try to radio for help. Exposing himself to enemy fire. LUTTRELL: I look back up at Mikey, and he took two rounds to the back. And stand back up, hung up the phone -- finished the transmission, hung up the phone, and he flanked left again. That was the last time I saw him.
STARR: Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
(STILL PHOTO MONTAGE OF LT. MICHAEL MURPHY)
NGUYEN: We'll take you back out to California now, where they are fighting wildfires. And affiliate KGTV, let's listen to some of their coverage.
(BEGIN LIVE FEED, IN PROGRESS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If something were to blow in it's path and then continue on. One home here was saved. Part of the reason may be that the home owner cut down some of the branches off some of the trees very close to the roof. This home had one person in it. We saw the car pull out as we came in.
If you look around the rest of the cul-de-sac here, right to left, you'll see that many of the other homes here are gone. However, just beyond that, virtually untouched. Those homes are still standing. Down the street we'll see three, four, five homes, then one or two that are gone. Then three or four more that are still standing.
Fire engines and fire trucks and police officers on motorcycles, and in cars, continually driving through here. What they're doing is checking to see what might be new. Because they're concerned about the flames leaping, because the winds still blowing so hard and so many directions, that if the embers go somewhere else, that could start a new fire.
They did save a house just down around the corner from us a few minutes ago. And one just here to the left, a little before that. They are being successful in certain places. Now, I had a photographer stop by just a moment ago, said she saw two fire trucks down below. But that's the only two she's seen in this area. What they're doing is patrolling, looking for the areas that could be hot spots. The ones that are gone, there's no hope. They're letting them go. Just making sure that they don't take care of anything else -- or take anything else in its path as well.
The house straight across the alley here, up on the next level, that one is -- it's probably totaled. But it's burning from the top down, which is unusual in this kind of a situation. Apparently the fire got some embers underneath the tile, burned the roof, and then the -- there's water coming right now as we're looking. Apparently that is flamed up. The fire engines that just went by us, checked out that location. And, obviously, trying to save the home next to it. So we've seen flames on that one. There's a little bit to the right on the top. The other side that we can't see from here is apparently gone. That's what it looks like from our vantage point. So you can see they do have some powerful hoses and they're able to do some things. But you also saw that the water as it went up, virtually dissipated because the winds are so strong. And I don't care how powerful that hose is, when you've got 40-, 50-mile-an-hour gusts, that water doesn't go anywhere that you intend it to go.
So many areas up here still in jeopardy. That's why we're seeing the patrols. It's not just looking for things, but making sure everybody is gone. We saw a man leaving not long ago, had a couple of coat hangers in the back with some clothes. Still people trying to, against hope, that their home will be saved or they'll be there with a garden hose. That doesn't always work. They're trying to make sure everyone is evacuated and safe. Live in Rancho Bernardo, Steve Fierina (ph), 10 News.
(END LIVE FEED)
NGUYEN: That's a little bit of what they're putting on the air there on KGTV. As they cover this fire, by the minute, there some 250,000 people have been forced to evacuate in the San Diego County area. The winds, they just keep blowing through. We understand that's not going to stop, at least for the next day or so -- Don.
LEMON: All right. We're going to get to someone on the telephone now, who is dealing with the situation there. We talked about having to have certain areas evacuated. Well, now the California Wildlife Animal Park is having to be evacuated. It's also part of the San Diego Zoo. Let's talk now to Yadira Galindo, who is a spokesman for the zoo, to tell us exactly what's happening with those animals.
You're even moving some of your large animals as well, which is probably a little bit riskier and trickier than moving the small ones?
YADIRA GALINDO, SAN DIEGO ZOO, WILDLIFE PARK: We're actually trying to keep as many of our animals in their current homes, just to reduce any anxiety that they may experience. Most of our large animals unfortunately, no, we can't move them. We're most stasis in their large field enclosures because we're talking enclosures that are 50 to 60 acres large. These are grazers. So they're constantly eating the grasses and then the bush, so the vegetation isn't a problem. It's not going to add more fuel to the fire.
The animals that we were moving were our smaller animals. Some of our more critically endangered species, like the California condor. You know, those animals there's a very limited number of that species left here, so we wanted to make sure they were safe. We took them to the San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park's hospital, which is still on the grounds of the wild animal park. But it is in a safer zone. It's climate controlled. It's got sprinklers. And we think that's one of the best places for some of these animals to be.
LEMON: Absolutely. I'm not sure if we have a picture of the California condor. But it' as you said, it is endangered. It is also one of those species on the protected list.
As well -- you're moving the African cheetah as well. One of the largest animals that you have to move to a safer location. Just so they know that, the cheetah is part of your animal ambassador program, right? Used for educational talks and presentations there?
GALINDO: Exactly. The cheetah is one of the animals that we use for up-close animal encounters for people to get closer to the animals and experience what these animals are like. Hopefully taking away a good message about their conservation needs. So anything from a snake to another smaller bird, up to the cheetah, those are all our animal ambassadors.
Because they usually come up to public areas, we usually crate them like you would a dog or cat. They're used to being moved around that way at the park. We could easily move them from their current home to the park hospital as well, where they're much safer.
LEMON: Now, I've been to the place that you are, the Wildlife Park there. That's a pretty open area. How would -- how would you get all these animals into a safe place? Because many of them run in these acres and acres of park, just freely there.
That's right. And that's why -- that's actually quite a challenge for us. And why we can only move some of those animals. Those animals that are in the large fields and enclosures, they have the safety of the watering holes. As we said, the vegetation isn't as lush, because they're constantly grazing on it. So we're confident that those animals are in the safest spot they can possibly be.
LEMON: And Yadira, you know, the San Diego Zoo is celebrated as one of the best in the country, if not the world. I'm sure people are concerned about the animals in the zoo part of your facility. Talk to us about them.
GALINDO: The San Diego Zoo's about 30 miles south of the Wild Animal Park. And the Wild Animal Park is in the immediate threat of that fire. The San Diego Zoo is located in downtown San Diego. And thankfully the fire is not a threat, at this point, in this area. Though it is spreading quite rapidly and we are keeping a close eye on it.
LEMON: There's so many fires there, it's hard for us to really keep tabs on exactly where it is in San Diego, in San Bernardino and Los Angeles County and what have you.
So, Yadira Galindo, a spokesman for the zoo, the Wild Animal Park there in San Diego, we appreciate you. And we wish you the best of luck as well.
GALINDO: Thank you.
NGUYEN: Well, fire is the enemy, but so is the weather. Hot, dry, windy, just a nightmare for firefighters. Our severe weather expert Chad Myers shows us the forecast and a virtual bird's-eye view of the ravaged region. You want to stay with CNN. You're in the NEWSROOM.
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