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California Wildfires; Almost 1 Million Evacuated

Aired October 24, 2007 - 00:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We'll be back in an hour with another live edition of AC 360. Right now, a special live edition of Larry King is next.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, heart break and hope. New nightmares loom as California continues to burn. The FBI is probing arson as a cause. The power grid remains in jeopardy. But have fading winds helped turn the tide? California, still burning. Still battered. Still under siege. Next on a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening, Wednesday night, Thursday morning, a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. And we remind you that LARRY KING LIVE returns to its regular time slot tomorrow night, Thursday night at 9:00 p.m. eastern.

We'll be hop scotching with lots of guests in lots of areas. Let's start with John King at Santiago Canyon. He spent most of the day with the Governor Schwarzenegger.

What did he have to say today?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As you know, Larry, he's a unique personality. He's defending his own state actions in response to these fires in response against some criticism that they didn't get California Air National Guard planes in the air fast enough. That perhaps they shouldn't lay off so many firefighters, about a thousand or so because of seasonal shifts. He's defending his actions but most of all, he says he's implementing what he believes is the most important lesson he learned from hurricane Katrina, which is don't sit at your desk at the state capital being briefed and making decisions. Get out and see the people, whether it's the firefighters, the emergency responders, get into the briefing rooms, give pep talks to the people making the phone calls and dealing with all the crisis. And he went to a gymnasium in nearby Irvine where I am to see about 300 families who have been displaced. He says that's the way he believes you lead in a crisis. Get out and touch the people and make quick decisions, but don't do it at a desk.

KING: John, are there pockets of criticism?

J. KING: There have been some pockets of criticism. In public, everyone is very careful, Larry. Again as you know, in this state, he's incredibly popular. Many of the democrats who Arnold Schwarzenegger when he said he wanted to go to from Hollywood to Sacramento mocked him, who thought that was a ridiculous now begrudgingly give him great credit for his political skills and his approval ratings are way up. There are some questions whether the state government did not act quickly enough to get the planes up in the sky. But the governor says with the wind conditions and the smoke conditions, it was unsafe for them to fly, that the pilots would have been at risk and it was a question how much they could do suppressing the fires given the winds at the time. But that is one of the things that will be looked at closely once these fires are contained and this crisis is put behind the state. But the governor is very upbeat and optimistic and he says he understands he'll be held accountable. He's happy to answer the questions. He thinks in the end that he and his team made the right call.

KING: John King in San Diego Canyon.

Let's go to Lake Arrowhead and Ted Rowlands, our CNN correspondent there. Lake Arrowhead particularly hard hit. What's the result today, Ted?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well 500 homes lost. They pretty much look like the one behind me, completely destroyed.

Today there was an issue with smoke. The winds were town, great news. The fire dissipated a bit and they were able to attack the fire from the air they thought. But because the smoke was so dense, they could not afford to fly. Talking about risking life, what John was talking about, that decision. That decision here was made, not to fly for a number of hours.

Late tonight they did get up, just before dusk, late this afternoon, and made some progress. They're hoping that overnight this fire will die down a little bit more and they can hit the skies early and really attack it.

Meanwhile, 11,000 people still evacuated, not knowing what they're going to come back to. A lot of them unfortunately, at least 500 of them, are going to come back to something like that.

KING: There's talk of arson. That's not in your area right, Ted?

ROWLaNDS: That is in the Orange County fires. There's two fires they are attributing right now to arson. This fire has not been labeled in terms of the causes of yet. The Malibu fire, of course, was started by downed power lines. Each fire has a different investigation going on and it's heart breaking to hear some are leading towards arson.

KING: Rick Sanchez is in Spring Valley. Have we past a crest? Do we see the light at the end of the tunnel, Rick?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think so. Certainly comparably speaking. We've been watching the Harris fire. It's the one that's further to the south. It's the one that's probably closer to San Diego proper. It's almost shaped like a banana or a boomerang. It goes around that side of San Diego. It's a big fire, now up to 73,000 acres is what they're talking about. We went out Larry and got some pictures of it. As a matter of fact, we went as high as you could go. This is the southeastern edge with Cal Fire. The fellows from Cal Fire took us up there. And it's remarkable to just get that close and see what this thing does.

As we were up there, by the way Larry, this is interesting, on our way up it was a warning for residents. Before we got there, they changed the warning to a mandatory evacuation order. And they started pushing people out. We got a couple people up there who decided they weren't going to go. One of them interestingly enough is an immigrant and he had been hired by the homeowner who left to watch their home. If you can believe that. So he was there to watch somebody else's home. I said look, why don't you take off, your life's in danger. Man, there's a fire all around you. He says, I made a promise to them I would watch their home and I'm going to stay here and do it.

KING: Rick, what's the impact on the firefighter?

SANCHEZ: I'll tell you, they're tough. They're doing the best they can. But, you know, you can tell when you talk to them that they've been working really long hours and they've going without sleep for an awful long period of time.

The good news, and I think Ted referred to this a little while ago, there was a bit of a break today. So they were able to get more resources out here. So a lot of the guys who had done 48 hours straight for example were able to go to their beds and get at least a five or six-hour break before they came back out.

Now we're starting to see, Larry, and this is important, we're starting to see some relief from the feds as well. We understand there will be some C-130s, they'll be some more helicopters, they'll be more of those air drop helicopters that are going to be coming into the area and that will relieve some of the locals. Cal Fire has really been doing most of the heavy lifting up until now.

KING: Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us. He was at the Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas. Their biggest problem was what, air quality?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's definitely a big problem in that area specifically and in this general area as well. You can see the haze still even at night here in the air.

This particular hospital, so interesting, the reason I wanted to go there, Larry, is because for a long time they were directly in the path of the fire. They had some critical decisions to make over the last three days, do we evacuate, do we not evacuate, do we take the patients and move them to other hospitals, do we start closing down our resources? As it turns out just like that, the winds changed and all of the sudden the hospital was safe. These are the sorts of things, the decisions they're making daily basis out there Larry.

KING: Why do you think we've had apparently only one death?

GUPTA: I think there's a couple of reasons for that. We asked the doctors that same question. One is I think the evacuations actually were timely. I think people actually for the most part did seem to get out in time.

There's another thing which was a little more interesting I thought, Larry, and one of the doctors thinks there's a large number of undocumented workers out there who are just fearful of getting to the hospital and trying to get any kind of medical consultation or care. I don't know if that's true or not. I do know when I was at the burn center, Larry, you and I talked about this yesterday, there was a 15-year-old boy who may have been an undocumented worker who was trying to flee the blaze, actually fell down and had 60 percent of his body burned. So I don't know. We may have more people coming in later down the road, but those are two possibilities.

KING: The aftermath, Dr. Gupta, what would you say is the number one health?

GUPTA: The air, for sure. People talk about being close to the fire and they talk about the fact that if you see the soot and everything, those are the people at risk. You could be 25 miles away and still be significantly at risk from that. Some doctors told me more so. The particles that get that far away are really small particles. They don't just stop in your mouth and the back of your throat. These get deep into your lungs. A lot of people wearing these dust masks. These really don't do anything at all towards protecting you against those particles. These masks are called M-95 masks. You can actually see it written right on there. As long as you get a good seal with this mask, really tight around your nose, they work pretty well. The best kind of mask, Larry, is something like this. It actually has a little filter in there and keeps the things from getting in. Four or five weeks this dust is really going to stay out there.

KING: Do you wear the mask?

GUPTA: Anderson and I were talking about that. I haven't been and I wear it sometimes but I've been feeling the tickle in the back of my throat. We've been out here three days and maybe I should have been and I think a lot of people would probably benefit from it.

KING: Listen to your doctor, wear the mask.

GUPTA: Will do, Larry. I got it right here.

KING: We'll be right back with more on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


PRES. GEORGE BUSH, UNITED STATES: Today, I've signed a major disaster declaration, which will enable federal funds to start heading towards the families affected by these fires. I will continue to make sure that our efforts are coordinated, that we are responsive to the needs of people. But most importantly, I want the people in southern California to know that Americans all across this land care deeply about them. (END VIDEO CLIP)


KING: We're back. Let's check in with Chad Myers, our CNN meteorologist in Atlanta. Things looking better?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Things are looking better with the wind Larry yes but worse with the air quality. Now we're not going to have the wind to blow the smoke offshore. Now the smoke will stay where it is and kind of settle to the ground. So the air quality if they think it's bad now, wait for tomorrow or for that matter the weekend. The swirling winds are not going to make this smoke go in one direction but swirl it around all over the place.

Every line that you see, that is a wind blowing in one direction or another. Well the wind's confuse and it's going to stay confused for the next couple of days, blowing in every direction all day belong, 5, 10, 15, 20 miles per hour but in no real direction just kind of always random. So the smoke in Riverside may end up in Pomona or back and forth. What you're only going to see here, a big difference how the fires react tonight, Larry, because when you're on flat land tonight without wind, the fires will go slowly. The firefighters are going to attack that slow fire. When it gets to a hill, they're going to get out of the way. It's like turning a match upside down. These fires will race up to the top of the hill.

Now the difference between today and tonight and yesterday is that now these fires are actually slowing down on the way back down the hill, whereas where we were, we were here a couple of days ago, too. By the time they got to the top of the hill on Monday, and especially on Sunday, they were blowing embers miles downstream and making more fires. This part is over. The firefighters do not have to worry about this any longer because the winds aren't here any longer. 5, 10, 11 miles per hour our strongest wind on the map. This is ironic. I watched some of the World Series today. How much rain is in the northeast, raining everywhere here and not one drop expected in California for the next ten days or so. Not one drop of rain for California, Larry.

KING: When does it end, Chad?

MYERS: Well, it doesn't for a while. I think two weeks before they get every fire out, Larry. This is going to be a long process. This smoldering process. There are hundreds of miles of fires still going. Now, not raging fires and houses aren't burning down and they're controlling that right now. But you're still going to have the smoldering, smoky mess across L.A. and you live there. You know what kind of a bowl this is. That smoke will be in the bowl. People will be choking. This couldn't be a better time than to take a ride somewhere else. It's going to be a bad couple of weeks in L.A.

KING: Thanks Chad Myers, CNN meteorologist.

Let's go to Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego where so many people are being housed. We'll meet Martha and Tarone Gilmore (ph). With them are their daughters, Nickie and Ashley (ph). Their home in Rancho Bernardo has been destroyed by fire. Did you witness it, Tarone?

TARONE GILMORE (ph), EVACUEE: Unfortunately, I didn't witness it. It was occurring as we were fleeing for an evacuation center. Really our family, our local family is what we went to as a haven of security for us.

KING: Did Martha, what was it like when you went back to look at it?

MARTHA GILMORE (ph), EVACUEE: Well, we haven't had the opportunity to see the home yet. So we're hoping tomorrow that they'll open it up and allow us to view it and get some closure in this first part of starting over again.

KING: Have you ever been through this before, Tarone?

GILMORE (ph): No, not to this extent. I've been in a couple of typhoons where you didn't have water or power for an extended period of time, but never where I've lost everything that I ever accumulated through my life.

KING: You're in the navy, right?

GILMORE (ph): Yes, I am.

KING: So what do you do now, Martha?

GILMORE (ph): Well, from here we'll try to get the kids situated so they're ready for school and keep them on a schedule as best as possible as we can with starting over again. So that's pretty much what our focus is now, to begin starting over and make sure that they're headed in the right direction.

KING: Are you staying at the stadium, Tarone (ph)?

GILMORE (ph): I've been fortunate enough to have family locally and have been able to stay with them. And had some support from the navy family as well as other local groups such as College Bound. Again, it's the pouring out of the community that has assisted us as well.

KING: Martha, are you going to rebuild, are you going to stay in Rancho Bernardo?

GILMORE (ph): We're hoping to, as long as everything goes well with the, you know, all the processes of starting over. We're hoping to start over here. The kids are in school and they've had friends here and we have family. And so we're hoping to start over here.

KING: You're a wonderful looking family, well bound together. God speed and good luck.

GILMORE (ph): Thank you. KING: Marth and Tarone Gilmore and Nickie and Ashley (ph), a pretty family. As we said last night, life is not fair. We'll be right back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's my home. You know, my kids took their first steps there. They had their first laughs, their first smiles there. I can't just leave it. I can't just walk away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My son ended up and he was asking me yesterday, he was in tears asking me dad, is this a dream? I said no, son, I need you to be strong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's going to happen when I do walk home and see what condition my house is in or may not be in? That's the scary part.


KING: You're watching a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE for this Wednesday night, Thursday morning. Let's check in Spring Valley, California with Allen Chernoff, CNN's senior correspondent.

What's the situation right there, right now, Allen?

ALLEN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, right now we have a lot of people out of their homes. They're here at a shelter. This is a local high school where we're standing at, and I'll tell you the mood actually fairly festive, if you can believe it. There's a band playing in the background. People in the gym are watching the World Series. Or watching your program as well. But in spite of the fact that so many people don't know what has happened to their home. Many people here were evacuated on Sunday and they still have no clue whether or not their home is still standing.

KING: There was supposed to be a huge power outage today that didn't happen. What prevented it?

CHERNOFF: Larry ... a major power outage. What happened was, the transmission grid that runs from east to west was actually down, had been down for several days. Crews have been working to clean it up. They had to get ash off. They had to get fire retardant off of the wires. They were able to do that. As soon as they did that, believe it or not, the major grid going north-south went down. The people at San Diego Gas and Electric told me that this was such a close call, they were so relieved. The chief operating officer told me this was one of his five most stressful days in his career.

KING: Is the situation clear now?

CHERNOFF: It is still fragile. A very good question, Larry. About 20,000 homes remain without power, but it definitely is still very fragile. As a matter of fact, San Diego County has been buying power from Mexico. About 10 percent of the needs of San Diego County have been met from the power company, the federal power company in Mexico. And believe it or not, this is actually a relationship that goes way back, back to 1984. Now, sometimes they need to buy power from us. Now San Diego desperately needs the power from Mexico. And they're helping out.

KING: Thanks, Allen. Boy, the things you learn here.

Let's go to Orange County and Jack Anderson, the assistant sheriff of Orange County's sheriff's department. What's the situation in your county, Jack?

JACK ANDERSON, ASSISTANT SHERIFF ORANGE COUNTY: There's certainly a threat, Larry. I want to start by saying best regards from Sheriff Mike Corona.

KING: One of my good people.

ANDERSON: Yes. Right now, we've suffered about 15,000 acres that have been burnt. We have 3,000 homes currently threatened by fires. The fire was contained about 50 percent. However, we think that containment is going down because it's going into our Cleveland national forest.

KING: Would you say Orange County has been lucky or not lucky?

ANDERSON: I think that Orange County has been lucky that we have some of the best firefighters and law enforcement here working in a unified command who have been able to save thousands of structures and they continue to do that as I speak now. We've got over 600 firefighters here working on this fire. We've got over 200 law enforcement officers providing support to the fire. And being out communities that had been evacuated and providing safety until the people return to their homes.

KING: Have you learned anything further about the arson investigation?

ANDERSON: We have. At this point, what I can tell you is that no search warrants have been affected. We are currently working together, the Orange County Sheriff's Department and the Orange County Fire Authority. We have identified multiple origins of the fire. And we continue to investigate that with the FBI, providing us assistance. Currently at this point, the FBI has put together a $100,000 reward for any information leading back to and the conviction and identification of the person or persons involved.

KING: So we are saying it was definitely arson?

ANDERSON: At this point, all the evidence points towards arson and that's how we're treating this.

KING: Have you personally, family or friends, Jack, been impacted by the fires?

ANDERSON: I have. In fact, our chief of police who works for the sheriff's department in the city of Lake Forest and the community, while he was working out of the command post he established in his city, his fire, his home became threatened by the fires and his community was evacuated and he had to actually leave the scene to go take care of his family and his property. And unfortunately, we've had some staff who have lost homes in other communities such as Lake Arrowhead.

KING: Have you had evacuations?

ANDERSON: We have, and we currently still have evacuations. Right now we have evacuations over many communities. It's quite a list. It involves a population well over a thousand people and those people are currently in shelters or with family and friends and we have about 3,000 additional homes that are being threatened at this point by the fire.

KING: Jack Anderson, Assistant Sheriff Orange County Sheriff's Department, thanks.

Allen Chenroff, one more thing to you. You began by mentioning the festive nature. How do you explain that?

CHERNOFF: Larry, unfortunately I think it's really a feeling of the moment. People are bonded together. The governor was here earlier. He got a big round of applause. People really appreciated him showing up. But the fact is ... I think many of them really don't know whether their home is still standing. But some of them do know. They have heard that their homes actually have burnt down. I did meet one couple that was visiting grandparents in Mexico. They were able to come back today and then they heard from a friend who was able to go down to their town about 20 miles away from here and found out that their trailer had been burned down. They have nothing left at all. I mean, it is just incredibly sad.

KING: A tragic story. Allen Chernoff, thanks, CNN senior correspondent.

We'll take a break and be back with more on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. LARRY KING LIVE returns to its regular time tomorrow night at 9:00 eastern. Staying atop this story, scoping everywhere we can in California to bring you the latest information as it happens. Don't go away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get some more hose.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An army of firefighters is deploying to California.


LAWRENCE: About 7,000 strong from Arizona, Oregon, even North Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the end of the day, we need to save a hundred homes.


LARRY KING, HOST: Welcome back to our special edition. Jeanne- Aimee de Marrais joins us. She's at Qualcomm stadium in San Diego. She's the team leader for Save the Children. They respond to the California wildfires. She served in the same capacity in the US gulf following hurricane Katrina. Also there is Eric Sakic of the US Humane Society, director of its West Coast regional office. What does Save the Children do, Jeanne-Aimee?

JEANNE-AIMEE DE MARRAIS, DEPUTY DIR., SAVE THE CHILDREN: During the initial days after a disaster, Save the Children's on the ground, working in shelters, helping to set up safe places for children so they can get back to a normal environment, they can relate to their peers and they have the best chance to recover emotionally from the traumas that they've experienced.

KING: How different is one from Katrina?

DE MARRAIS: There are a few differences. It's response from the California government and the city of San Diego has been tremendous. But there are also similarities. Shelters, even very good shelters, are not safe environments for children. So it's critically important that young evacuees are a priority and their safety and protection and recovery are a priority.

KING: Is Qualcomm a better set-up than the stadium in New Orleans?

DE MARRAIS: Yes, certainly. There's a much more festive environment here but there's also tremendous hardship that children and families face. Walking around the parking lot, you meet families who were sleeping on the ground. They'll have infants and very young children with them sleeping on the ground next to their cars. So there are certainly challenges that families are facing. But by working in partnership with the state, with schools, with childcare centers and corporate donors like Toys R Us, we'll be able to help this community recover.

KING: How many people are in your group?

DE MARRAIS: We have a team of eight on the ground right now. We also work in partnership with large numbers of volunteers through the American Red Cross shelter volunteers. Also through childcare workers to come out to help staff up these safe program areas for children.

KING: Have any children gotten lost?

DE MARRAIS: Children have been separated. There is an organization -- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children who are taking the lead on reunifying children with their families. But in the disaster like this, unlike an earthquake, people knew it was coming and many families were able to evacuate with their parents.

KING: Eric Sakic, what is the role of the society in this?

ERIC SAKIC, U.S. HUMANE SOCIETY: Thank you, Larry. Human Society of the United States is out here at the request of San Diego county animal services. We have five strike teams working in the field with animal services personnel today. They in fact today rescued 417 animals. Those were taken to various locations. Fortunately, most of those animals were returned to owners. KING: I know that horses tend to go back to the barn if the barn is on fire because that's their home. What are other traits that animals do in fires?

SAKIC: Well, it's more important what the traits are of pet owners in fires actually. The message we would want to get across here and what seems of played a large role in the response here is that people have included pets as a part of the family. Many people have evacuated with their pets. Whether they had a place to put them or not and the community response has been this tremendous. Veterinary hospitals opening their doors providing free boarding, various hotels going pet friendly for evacuees. So in that regard, we're seeing incredible community support for their animal friends.

KING: Are there lots and lots of pets here involved in this?

SAKIC: Literally thousands of pets. When you consider there may be somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 people evacuated in San Diego County alone, and perhaps 45 to 50 percent of those families have pets as part of the family, the impact is enormous. And of course, when people plan ahead like we like them to do; we see fewer problems with evacuation failures and fewer problems with re-entry attempts.

KING: Thanks so much, Eric. Let's check in with Mike Jarvis in Rancho Bernardo, he's a deputy director of communications for the California Fire Department. What is your role, Mike? What is the deputy director of communications do?

MIKE JARVIS, DEPUTY DIR., CAL FIRE, RANCHO BERNARDO: My job is to coordinate all the information throughout the state, make sure we're getting the information out not only to the public and but to the media and making sure that we can get the best response from the public in terms of reacting and doing what would be best to save their lives and their property.

KING: Rancho Bernardo has been particularly hard hit, hasn't it?

JARVIS: Yes, it's pretty -- I haven't been up the street. It's pretty devastating and you can drive for quite awhile anywhere in San Diego County and you show up in another neighborhood and it's bad. It's really bad down here and it's pretty devastating.

KING: when these houses are hit by fire, they go quickly, don't they?

JARVIS: Yes, and it depends upon a lot of times on what they're constructed out of. It's amazing how we were just talking about how some neighborhoods you'll go there and the whole neighborhood is gone and one house is still standing. You know, traditionally, the tower roofs have a better shot of surviving, the house surviving. But it's doesn't take much, especially when you have winds and you have an ignition source. You're going to get a lot damage in homes.

KING: What are the prospects are you optimist -- is the turn -- do you see the light at the end of the tunnel? JARVIS: Well, today was very encouraging. I don't have all the current stats but I know that a lot of the containment numbers are up and that's what we're really looking at. Plus, we had a real advantage with the aircraft being able to do more with the initial attack on fire areas because the winds had slowed down or stopped swirling. We had a real problem early in this fire and I was in Malibu and then I've been down here. In Malibu, it was ridiculous. The winds were just impossible and that made it hard not only for our ST2T tankers and helicopters but also our DC-10 couldn't fly. So -

KING: Thanks, Mike. Doing their duty. Mike Jarvis, California fire deputy director of community. Lots more ahead on LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: We're back. With us on the phone is the senior executive producer of LARRY KING LIVE, Wendy Walker, who left her home a couple days ago and is still out of her house in Rancho Santa Fay. Wen, do you have any word on when you go back?

WENDY WALKER, SR. EXEC. PRODUCER LARRY KING LIVE: We don't know yet. Still, we're hoping its tomorrow. It's been three days and what's so weird, Larry, is it feels like it's been three weeks. And we're exhausted and achy and cranky and scared and the hardest part I think about this is that we still don't have any information about the condition of our home. I tried twice to get into our area today, but the National Guard is there and they won't let you in. I mean, you know, it doesn't matter who you say or -- you can't get into your house. I mean, I tried twice and they said no. And this is good and bad. The good is it means no looters can get in. And the bad is, can you imagine, Larry, somebody telling you -- you can't even look at your house? I think the problem -- the biggest problem in this area is none of us who are away from our homes have any information. We don't know the condition of the houses and we don't know when we're going to see them. We're hoping it's tomorrow and I am prepared, I've called my insurance company and we're telling them about what we think the damage is. Our good friend Suzanne Somers, who has been through this last year when her house was destroyed and now her house this time is just major damage. But it's OK.

KING: Who -

WALKER: She emailed me today to tell me she said Wendy, you have to prepare for smoke damage. Just because it's there doesn't mean you're not going to walk into something that's going to really freak you out. So, you know, but I think that -- we're all really disappointed about the information flow. The most information that we have received, because we've all been trying and we've calling everybody, but the best information we have has been an email from the minister of the local church and the village church has become the staging center for the firefighters and the minister has told us that they have cots and showers for the firefighters and, you know, and that's good for me because it's really close to my house. But you know, the neighborhood around me, there's so many houses. I mean, I was really hit. Where my house is where it hit in Rancho Santa Fay. KING: Wendy, who tells you when you can go home?

WALKER: Well, we're hearing that the people that really decide is the Fire Department in Rancho Santa Fay and they're the ones that make the determination whether or not we can go back in. But they still haven't told us. They said the best thing we can do is at 9:00 in the morning, they're going to tell us, you know, what -- if we can go in or what we can do. But we won't know until 9:00 in the morning. But, you know, my friends that I'm staying with, Nick and Cathy, they showed me a map today. And my house is 200 yards from a house that was destroyed. So, you know, I'm relieved and spooked at the same time.

KING: Yes. We'll stay in touch with you all day of course. God speed, Wendy. You're a tough broad.

WALKER: I have to be if I work with you, Lar.

KING: Wendy Walker, senior executive producer of CNN's LARRY KING LIVE. Let's check in at Qualcomm stadium with Kristine Fiero, she and her four kids were evacuated on the dire circumstances earlier this week. She was on with us last night. Did you go back today?

KRISTINE FIERO: Yes, we did.

KING: What did you find?

FIERO: Everything intact, thank God.

KING: When do you go back in?

FIERO: We were notified today. Rosy actually notified me today and we went into the home and it was a sign of relief when I got there. I had a smile, but at the same time it's sympathy and just my prayers go out to the one whose have lost their homes. And who are -- the ones that are going to be notified of their homes being lost.

KING: You are at Qualcomm now, when do you back home, when do you physically move back home?

FIERO: I already have.

KING: You have. So what are you doing back at Qualcomm?

FIERO: Cameras are at Qualcomm.

KING: So you're there to report?


KING: How are the kids handling it?

FIERO: They actually want to stay another night. I want to stay at home and rest. There's so many activities here for them. They're not even paying attention. KING: Good luck, Kristine, I'm so glad everything turned out well. Kristine Fiero, earlier Wendy Walker. We'll take a break and be back with more on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: We're back. Let's check in with Battalion chief, Gerry Brewster of the San Diego Fire and Rescue. What's the situation in your coverage area, Gerry?

BATTALION CHIEF GERRY BREWSTER, S.D. FIRE RESCUE SPECIAL OPS.: Right now everything is starting to calm down. Our main focus at this point is trying to repopulate the areas that we evacuated on Sunday and Monday.

KING: What's been the most difficult aspect of this?

BREWSTER: When the fire hit us, it was -- it hit us really hard and we had to go into a full rescue mode. We didn't even have an opportunity in the very beginning to protect structures. We were just loading the folks up, the civilians out of their homes as they were actually burning and putting them into our fire engines and getting them out of the area. After that occurred, then we started -- go ahead.

KING: I'm sorry. Go ahead. Have you had injuries?

BREWSTER: We've had minor injuries to fire personnel. I've not heard of any significant injuries to the civilians.

KING: Is that surprising?

BREWSTER: Yes, it is, for the velocity of this fire coming into the city of San Diego, it's an absolute miracle that we didn't have severe injuries during this siege.

KING: Have you turned the corner?

BREWSTER: In the western end of the fire, we're getting the upper hand on it and in the city of San Diego; we're starting to turn the corner.

KING: Thanks. That's Battalion chief Gerry Brewster. Let's check in now with Anderson Cooper. Anderson Cooper and I have been doing revolving chairs here. LARRY KING LIVE will return to 9:00 tomorrow night. Anderson Cooper will be on at 7:45 in the morning in his many travels. Anderson, I know you're going to be live at the TOP OF THE HOUR. What's up, another hour?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We've got another hour. I spent the day out on the Harris fire on the eastern edge, one of the big fires in the San Diego area. It has burned about 73,000 acres so far. It's only about 10 percent contained at this point. Five firefighters have been injured battling this blaze. We'll take you out on the frontlines and show you why even though winds have die down these spot fires that are popping up are a cause of real concern for the firefighters. They have to try to put them out. Even though the fires are small, the winds pick up and they carry these embers for huge, long distances, hundreds of yards and lights up other homes. We saw a lot of homes burning today. We'll going to take you frontlines. We'll also introduce you to a family who weathered the fire sitting in their van. They had to flee into their van for safety. They're very lucky to be alive. They said they were seeing charcoal balls of fire hitting their vehicle at one point. We'll talk to them at the TOP OF THE HOUR, Larry.

KING: And one other thing, Anderson and I will let you go.. The coverage difference from your standpoint of this to Katrina?

COOPER: I mean, it's night and day. I mean, you go to Qualcomm stadium yesterday and people, you know, there was medical personnel there. It was organized. There were local government officials there. There were state government officials there. Federal officials came in later on. It is a completely different picture. There's been some criticism of about federal response or sort of long- term federal support of firefighters here. There's a lot of need of firefighters here in San Diego that haven't been met. But overall, I think people's response has been very strong indeed. And a lot of that goes to political leadership.

KING: Thanks, Anderson. Anderson Cooper, we'll see him in about seven minutes at the top of the hour with live edition of AC360. Let's check in with Major General William Wade, commanding general of the California National Guard up in the Sacramento. What's been the guard's role in this, commander?

MAJOR GENERAL WILLIAM H. WADE, CALIFORNIA NATIONAL GUARD: Well, Larry, we do what we normally do, with all our soldiers and army are trained to do and we respond the best we can to ensure safe and secure environment for all the citizens of California. We're conducting patrols, providing security, doing traffic control as you heard earlier, we're also out guarding against looting and making sure that people don't wander into areas that would be unsafe for them. We've also provided linguist support down in the Southern California area. And we're also providing administrative support, helping to receive and stage those people who come to the evacuation centers. So all those essential emergency support functions that the locals do, we support them in getting those accomplished.

KING: Are guard members trained to deal with fire?

WADE: Our pilots are trained to deal with fire response. They're trained every year and recertified so that drop either fire retiring (ph) from pitching aircraft or water buckets. But the traditional soldier will do their traditional task. If they're quarter master then that's what they will do, they will do with commodities. If they're transportation, then they will drive. If they're medics, they'll provide medical support. So all the great training that the Army and Air Force gives our Guardsman, they put that to work in times such as this.

KING: Are any of these young men and women people served in Iraq?

WADE: We've deployed over 26,000 soldiers and airmen from the California National Guard. So clearly the majority of these soldiers and airmen have served, if not in Iraq - Afghanistan, in other theaters of operation around the world. So they are quite well trained and they're seasoned at responding in emergency or exigent time circumstances.

KING: We salute you, general. Major General William Wade, commanding general of California National Guard, back with our remaining moments on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE after this.


KING: In our remaining couple of moments, Jerry Sack the fire chief of Miramar and James Barr, the assistant fire chief, joins us.

Jerry, how bad was Miramar hit?

CHIEF JERRY SACK, MIRAMAR FIRE DEPARTMENT: Fortunately, we were not hit. The fire came extremely close. But due to all our preventative firebreaks and field break maintenance, we were lucky we were not hit.

KING: You did preventative things, James?

ASST. FIRE CHIEF JAMES D. BARR, MIRAMAR FIRE DEPT.: Yes, we did a lot of prescribed burning on NCIS Miramar to support the marines on base to prevent a recurrence of the fires coming across the base. We've been very fortunate with our efforts to be successful in our efforts with the prescribed burning and things have turned out rather good for us for this present firestorm situation.

KING: Jerry, is Miramar a Naval Base?

SACK: No, it used to be the home of the topguns for the Navy. Now, it's the home of the third Marine aircraft link for the Marine Corp.

KING: And it's located where, James?

BARR: The Marine Base is located at San Diego, California.

KING: I mean where is Miramar?

BARR: Miramar is up there by the Mira mesa area, up by Poway, northern edge of San Diego.

KING: I guess, Jerry, then you could consider yourself both experienced and lucky.

SACK: Yes, we have. Again, we would like to think that due to our training and our proactive preventive work that we're able to dive the bullet. KING: I salute you and congratulate you also on your luck. James Barr and Jerry Sack, that's completes this hour, our special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Again, LARRY KING LIVE returns to its regular time at nine Eastern tomorrow night.