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CNN NEWSROOM

Boy Scouts Help at Qualcomm Stadium; Researchers Are Figuring Out Some of Fires' Wily Ways; How Bad is Smoky Haze?; Arsonists at Work?; Iran Sanctions

Aired October 25, 2007 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. When you're with CNN, you're informed. I'm Tony Harris.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I'd Heidi Collins.

Developments keep coming into the CNN NEWSROOM on this Thursday, October 25th. Here is what's on the rundown.

Fortunes change with the wind. Some good news today, but, unfortunately, a grim find in southern California. Just as firefighters were making advances against major wildfires.

HARRIS: Being hearts at the largest evacuee center. You'll see how the Boy Scouts are helping people cope.

COLLINS: And why do wildfires do what they do? You'll hear from someone who knows, in the NEWSROOM.

In Southern California, the winds die down, and a grim discovery emerges now from the ashes. Just minutes ago we learned that firefighters have found two bodies in a gutted home near Poway. That is in San Diego County. And news as fire crews are gaining ground on this fifth day of raging wildfires. The hot, dry Santa Ana winds are expected to all but disappear today, so that is allowing firefighting planes to bombard those fires from the air. Almost 100 planes could take part in a massive aerial assault today.

So, across the region, thousands of homes do remain in danger. 1,600 have already been destroyed, and losses are now estimated at more than $1 billion and counting.

President Bush will be taking a tour of the region next hour. He's going to take a look at things by air and meet with some of those people who have been chased from their homes.

Meanwhile, federal investigators are focusing on whether arsonists are to be blamed for some of the fires. We are watching that story. Fire investigators looking for clues, even as small as they can be sometimes, wondering whether arsonists are to blame.

CNN's Keith Oppenheim has the very latest on the investigation now.

And I think, Keith, a lot of people are wondering here, boy, did somebody really intentionally set this fire? KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Heidi, and why someone would do that in the conditions that we've had in southern California is really hard to imagine. But that is exactly what authorities here in Orange County are telling me, and they are working with the FBI, the ATF. They've gone to three outdoor locations to investigate and say in two of those outdoor locations for the Santiago Canyon fire, they are quite sure that this fire was set on Sunday evening.

We're going to hear now from Kris Concepcion of the Orange County Fire Authority, and he tells us what they have found on the scene and what they're looking at.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRIS CONCEPCION, ORANGE CO. FIRE AUTHORITY: They knew what was going on as far as the fires up in L.A. They knew what the weather was like here in Orange County, and then they went ahead and did what they did.

OPPENHEIM: They exploited that condition.

CONCEPCION: Exactly. And they caused this response that we've had had. They really put firefighters at risk, but more importantly, they put citizens at risk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OPPENHEIM: So keep in mind Concepcion is saying that whoever set these fires did so Sunday evening at a time when there were numerous other fires already burning in southern California. The Santiago Canyon fire, Heidi, is big. It's 22,000 acres burned so far, 22 buildings have been destroyed, and of those 14 are homes. There's an army out there trying to fight it. More than 1,000 firefighters are trying to protect 3,000 homes that are threatened right now.

Lots of money being offered for anyone that has information that would lead to an arrest or a series of arrests in this case. At least $70,000, and we're being told by Concepcion that figure could go up to $100,000 or more. We'll find out later this morning.

COLLINS: A lot of people going to be wanting justice to be served here if this, indeed, is the case. CNN's Keith Oppenheim. Keith, thank you.

HARRIS: Rolling Hills once dotted with multimillion dollar homes. Today it is a landscape of charred, smoldering ruins with seemingly little to explain the randomness, the path of destruction.

CNN's Reggie Aqui is in Rancho Bernardo. The destruction in that particular neighborhood seems complete.

REGGIE AQUI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. I'm basically at the end of a cul-de-sac. This is one of those neighborhoods where it leveled everything. This fire came through and chose to devastate this portion. In fact, these beams that are behind me, it's pretty much all that's left of these homes. These neighbors were apparently here very early this morning to check it out.

I can't blame them for not wanting to stay here. Because you know how sometimes after a fire or hurricane or tornado, you will see these families going through what is left of their home and they find picture frames. They find stuffed animals, personal effects, that sort of thing. I'm not going through there right now. I'm trying to respect their property, but just looking through it from here, I can't see anything that is salvageable at this point, any sort of mow meant toe of the lives that had to be spectacular that lived here.

This is a beautiful area. It overlooks the valley in San Diego. What I can only imagine what were wonderful homes, pools in the back. I mean a week ago they had to be having a great time in these homes, and now look at it.

These cars are completely burned out. In fact, I'm going to show you what's left of in this wheel. This is it. It was so hot that it melted the wheel completely down and then obviously it just started to run down the driveway. So this family, I'm not really sure if they're going to have anything to claim after this, Tony, and apparently they had to leave so fast that as they were driving out of the driveways here, they could see the fire catching onto their homes and they had to make it out of here so quickly. I doubt they were able to really take much.

So this is kind of the situation that we're seeing, and I guess the good news, Tony, is that now at least they have that Witch fire contained to about 20 percent, which is much better than it was yesterday, but for these folks it's pretty much all over for them.

HARRIS: Boy, you just hope that they were able to get a couple of items that are really important to them and then, boy, you got a real sense of how intense the heat must have been associated with those fires when you give us a look at that vehicle.

AQUI: You do.

HARRIS: All right. Reggie Aqui for us this morning. Reggie, appreciate it, thank you.

COLLINS: Now a close look at the wildfires' toll. At least eight people have died now. We just told you a few minutes ago about unfortunately two more bodies that were found moments ago. 78 people have been hurt, and the flames have scorched more than 462,000 acres or 723 square miles. That is roughly the size of Rhode Island. At least 1,600 homes have been destroyed, and there are now 12 active wildfires, 12 others are 100 percent contained. Residents in 13 San Diego county communities can now return home.

HARRIS: And in all of this, we're looking at some good news. First of all, down to about 300 people at Qualcomm, which is great news. And the weather conditions out west improving for firefighters. There he is.

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: They're getting much better. They really are guys. I don't want to make this sound like a bad thing, but we really had perfect conditions for this to happen. I don't mean perfect in a positive way. I mean perfect in a bad way. We had the very dry conditions, the high temperatures which helped dry out a lot of the vegetation.

And then, of course, we had the strong winds that really fanned the flames, and to show you how strong the winds were, this is the latest image we have from NASA which shows combined with Google earth just how strong and how far they carried the smoke pool, some 800 miles out into the pacific.

You have to keep in mind this is what many people in the San Diego area and people up in the L.A. basin have been breathing. They have been breathing a lot of this stuff in.

Problem is with this frontal boundary that we see farther to the north, that will sag into the southern half of the state which will stop a lot of the winds. When you have this front come through, it's going to bring you more of a fetch off the ocean. That's going to push a lot of smoke right back into Southern California, possibly as far east as Tucson or Phoenix. Anyone who has any kind of respiratory problems, it's going to be a huge issue for you for days to come.

At least we'll be looking at more moisture back in the air with the westerly breeze. That will make a tremendous difference for the firefighters. They need all the help they can possibly get.

COLLINS: Yes, they certainly do. Obviously want to sort of emphasize as you have mentioned before, too, Reynolds, that we do have some containment. We've got 12 fires that are 100 percent contained. Certainly not over yet. There's still some spreading and so forth and the firefighters really are working hard absolutely.

Meanwhile, flying above the fires can often be dangerous and hazardous, as you would imagine. A man who has done an awful lot of that lately is helicopter pilot J.T. Alpaugh. He's joining us now live to tell us a little bit about what he has seen from above.

Good morning to you, J.T. Why don't you go ahead and just tell us what you have seen, as we continue to look at more live pictures now with an awful lot of smoke still coming up from -- this is Running Springs we're looks at. But at least less wind, which is really the big thing.

J.T. ALPAUGH, HELINET PILOT/REPORTER: Heidi, we spent a lot of time flying especially over that running springs fire where we watched about 400 homes burn down to the ground through these wildfires.

I heard you talking about the smoke in the basin. Now, those Santa Ana conditions have died off in the past 24 hours, and what's happening, where you saw that satellite picture with all that smoke being blown off the shore, now what's happening is that smoke is just piling in to these basins and valleys and just making visibility and air quality absolutely horrible. Making it very difficult also to fly.

So that's what we've been seeing up here, and we've been to all the greater fires around the Los Angeles area, and just watching these amazing firefighters battling this from the air with the air tankers and dropping the retardant. It's been an amazing thing to watch.

It's very reminiscent of what we saw over Katrina when we were covering that. Other than the death toll, there have been some people's lives been taken by this, but not nearly the amount of the hurricane. But just the amount of displacement and the amount of homes that have been lost and just -- you can just feel the despair in the people down there. It's just an awful situation, very reminiscent of the hurricane.

COLLINS: Yeah, I can only imagine some of the different things that you have had a hand in, and certainly now this one. J.T., I am not quite sure what type of helicopter you fly, but having been up in one and being over just a much, much smaller fire, but flying through that smoke, give people a sense of what it's like to have, you know, zero visibility. Obviously you're using your instrumentation when you do that, but I mean it is absolutely blinding, like sort of being in a tunnel.

ALPAUGH: Well, part of the things that we do and the helicopter sees that we use is we don't dry directly into the smoke. When we can't see the fire or see what's going on down on the ground, we can't bring those pictures to the viewers. So what we try to do is we have to fly around the smoke and down and find angles to get through it. So we try to avoid flying through the zero/zero type conditions that you spoke of. But needless to say now that the smoke is just pouring everywhere, there are thin layers and thick layers and we're breathing more of it since the Santa Ana condition has dropped.

COLLINS: Real quickly before we let you go, J.T., tell us a little bit about what is being dropped on the fires. We have seen water obviously with the bambi buckets that are being dropped, but what specifically is that chemical being laid on top of the flames?

ALPAUGH: I don't know the chemical breakdown of it, but what they do with the orange color, that basically -- that line is being laid down and it's orange in color so they can see where they have marked and where they have left it so they can pick up the line on the next drop. When the fire gets to the chemical, it just takes that chemical and makes it stop burning, almost a retardant, if you will. A lot of times what they want to do is lay down a very thick line because the stronger and the heavier the fire is, it will continue through.

But that doesn't solve the problem of the embers. The embers will skip right over the chemical and start spot fires downwind. But that's an important part of the battle out here and we watched the Santiago fire in Orange County right before dark, these air tankers dropped just a sortie after sortie, hundreds of them to try to stop the fire line from reaching a populated area of Santiago Canyon. So, a valuable too long being used in this battle.

COLLINS: Absolutely. Now question about it. We're looking at some of that video too as they drop it down. J.T. Alpaugh, we certainly appreciate your insight into all of this. I know you have been up there and you've seen an awful lot throughout this tragedy. Certainly appreciate your time here today.

If you want to watch continuing coverage of the wildfires that, unfortunately, are ravaging California, you can do that all day on CNN and when you're not in front of the television, you can always check out our online network, CNN.com live. You can choose from multiple live feeds or from a wide selection of videos that have come into us here at CNN. All of that is available to you at CNN.com.

HARRIS: We're also making news this morning, pretty big news, in fact. Tightening the noose on Iran. The Bush administration announcing a short time ago new sanctions against Iran's revolutionary guard and the Quds force, the toughest sanctions in more than 20 years.

Treasury secretary Henry Paulson making the case against Tehran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY PAULSON, TREASURY SECRETARY: Iran exploits its global financial ties to pursue nuclear capabilities, to develop ballistic missiles, and fund terrorism.

Today we are taking additional steps to combat Iran's dangerous conduct and to engage financial institutions worldwide to make the most informed decisions about those with whom they choose to do business. The Iranian regime's ability to pursue nuclear and ballistic missile programs in defiance of U.N. resolutions depends on its access to international commercial and financial systems.

Iran also funnels hundreds of millions of dollars each year through the international financial system to terrorists. Iran's banks aid this conduct using a range of deceptive financial practices intended to evade even the most stringent risk management controls.

In dealing with Iran, it is nearly impossible to know one's customer and be assured that one is not unwittingly facilitating the regime's reckless behavior and conduct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: The treasury secretary gives us a lot to consider this morning.

So let's talk a bit more about the revolutionary guard. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was once a member of his country's revolutionary guard. The elite military branch is 125,000 members strong. It was formed by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, almost immediately after the Iranian revolution. The most secretive guard unit is the Quds force or Quds force. It's said to condition duct operations outside the country. The U.S. accuses the Quds force of supplying and training militants in Iraq. Tehran denies it.

COLLINS: Walls of fire are forcing thousands of people from their homes. In just a moment, we'll talk to one family about what they went through. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Safe from the fires, but still not sure if they'll have a home to return to, and, boy, what a twist to this story.

Dustin Miner and his son, Sebastian and Gabriel join us live from Qualcomm Stadium right now. But someone is very distinctively missing in that picture, and Dustin that would be your wife, Audrey. Where is she?

DUSTIN MINER, EVACUEE: She's at Mercy Scripps Hospital right now. She's 7 1/2 months pregnant, and her water broke here last night.

COLLINS: Wow.

MINER: So she's -- yeah.

COLLINS: Well, I'm trying to figure out -- I mean obviously this is some joy that you are having in all of this, but you're going to have a baby at any moment, but that being said, it's got to be obviously sort of like a roller coaster ride with everything you've been through. Tell me a little bit about it.

MINER: Yeah. It's pretty much been one thing right after another. Gabriel, Saturday -- no, Friday night he dislocated his arm. So he's in a cast.

COLLINS: Oh, yeah, look at his little cast.

MINER: Yeah. Following that we got evacuated. So we're here, which is great, it's been great. And then, you know, yeah, my wife last night, her water breaks two months early.

COLLINS: Boy, when it rains, it pours. It's such a terrible cliche right now, but I think it's absolutely true for you guys. Have you been able to get any information whatsoever about your home?

MINER: I have heard a couple things. It's just going to be a matter of being able to get up there and see exactly what's going on for myself. I've heard -- we've heard that it's fine, it's there, but inevitably there's some damage.

COLLINS: Sure. Deer Horn Valley is where your home was. Tell us where that is and what you saw, what the conditions were like before you actually had to evacuate.

MINER: Well, you know, it was strange. It was like as if the fire had already passed us, like the fire was southwest of us by far, and so we -- I tried to pretty much wait it out for a couple hours and I kept going outside and checking it, coming back in, going outside and checking it. So I go back outside, I go back outside and the neck thing I know the flames are huge, huge flames are breaking our nearest ridge, and that was it, man, it was time to go.

COLLINS: Yes, time to pack up and go. Well, boy, certainly can be thankful that you all are together except for Audrey, who is in the hospital and at any moment you may have a third child to be talking with and cooing over, if you will. Those little guys right there seem to be doing pretty well. We certainly wish you the best of luck and appreciate your time here today.

Dustin Miner and his kids, Sebastian and Gabriel. Great shot there. Thanks so much, guys.

HARRIS: The kids have been great, haven't they?

COLLINS: Yeah. They're having a great time at Qualcomm. We keep on hearing that about all the toys and the food and they're having a wonderful time.

HARRIS: Good to see. Really has been good to see. Spirits high, high.

Helping others at all times. The Boy Scouts. The scouts living up to their promise. We'll talk to some scouts coming up next in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: All right. Once again in southern California many people are going home today unsure of what they'll find. CNN's Rusty Dornin is gathering your e-mails, I-reports from our interactive information center.

Rusty, it was great last hour. You had e-mails, painted horses. It was like news radio on TV. It was great.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're trying to field all the questions people have and all the information that they can pass on. But we want people to know, there are places to go obviously to find like you know here at the latimes.com what are the people in the community thinking about it? Well, hope is rising as the Santa Ana's begin to subside. In San Diego I know people are concerned because there are still fires that are burning.

Of course, I-reporters continue to send in their pictures and videos, and we want more. We want to see your neighborhoods. Now, take a look at Mike Gardner. He sent in a lot of material over the past few days. Here you can see a tanker that is refueling. Very unusual. It's not an airport. That's Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, where tankers are landing to get refueled. Mike also spent a lot of time going through some of the neighborhoods, seeing some of the devastation surrounding that area and is trying to show our viewers and get the message out.

So please do remember, bring those videos in, send us those pictures. You can see the burned out cars, the houses, the streets, the rubble that's in the streets, the difficulty that people are going to have getting back into their neighborhoods. That's who we want to hear from, the people that are going back into their homes. Are you having a tough time getting in there? There are ways we can even help you.

We received an e-mail from Madeleine Adler in Omaha. Her daughter is a recent California resident, and she said that she had to evacuate three different times. The third time a fire helicopter actually dropped water on them and she also ended up having an asthma attack, and she's been suffering anxiety and wants to know where to go, that sort of thing.

Well, if you take a look at CNN's Impact Your World, there are a number of agencies, including the Red Cross. The Red Cross does have counselors that can help people deal with the incredible emotional things that are happening to them when they're finding their house is destroyed, when the air quality is horrible and they're completely freaked out about whether they're going to have any place to go home to.

There are several organizations listed here, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army. You can click on any one of them and also find out how they spend their money so you feel good about where your money is going. So here in the interactive room, we're getting a lot of e- mails in, but we're also trying to disseminate that information so people know where to go, what to do, and how to hook up with people.

HARRIS: Boy, you really have to love what is going on with CNN.com, and I know I sound like a bit of a shill, but maybe what we should do is sort of remind folks how to send those I-reports. Rusty, appreciate it, thank you.

There are a couple ways you can do it, actually. On your computer just go to CNN.com and click on I-report or you can type i- report@CNN.com into your cell phone and once you do that, please, we encourage you to share your photos, your videos with us, and of course we always remind you because it's important, just be careful and don't put yourself at risk.

Bottom of the hour. Welcome back, everyone, to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: I'm Heidi Collins. Two more deaths in the southern California wildfires. Just moments ago we learned that fire crews in San Diego County found two burned bodies in a gutted home. That brings to eight the number of fire-related deaths now.

Meanwhile, firefighters are making headway. Calmer Santa Ana winds are helping that situation. Many people who evacuated their homes are now being allowed to return. In fact, half of the two dozen fires burning are now 100 percent contained. Two arson investigations though are under way. In about an hour, President Bush is going to be getting a firsthand look at the fire-ravaged area. He's set to have an aerial tour of the damage.

HARRIS: Keeping their promise to help. California Boy Scouts set up tents for evacuees. Great work here. They're still there, still helping. Scout Master Bob Slayton joins us.

Bob, good to see you, and all the Scouts.

Bob, are you there? Can you hear me OK?

BOB SLAYTON, BOY SCOUT MASTER: Yes, I can.

HARRIS: All right. There you go. Smiles all around. Hey, Bob, is there anything left to do?

SLAYTON: Well, we've got a big task now of taking down all the tents and the cots that were set up. We set up over 400 of them Monday night.

HARRIS: Tell us about that effort, if you would, Bob. Take us back to Monday. How did you hear about the need? I think I read somewhere that you heard about it on the radio and tell us about how you mobilized, and at the height of the effort, how many Scouts did you have working with you?

SLAYTON: It was a Monday afternoon we were listening on the radio and they said they need Scouts to come out and help set up the tents. And so we were supposed to have a meeting that night. So I had my senior patrol leader call all the scouts in the unit and ask for volunteers to come out and start setting up the tents.

HARRIS: We talk about the Scouts keeping their promise. Talk to us about that creed of the Boy Scouts and their mission in times of need.

SLAYTON: Well, the Scouts are there to help out whenever they can. That's part of our Scout law, our Scout oath, and it's Scout motto, to be prepared. When the call came out, we were there willing to help as much as we could.

HARRIS: All right. Fellows, I mean I just want folks to know that you're living and breathing and not wooden, there. Give me a wave or something. Give me a wave. Let everybody know that -- guys, can you wave for me? To your friends?

Bob, can you tell them to wave so folks can see that they're there, that they're breathing. There you go. Give me a sign. Give me a sign.

All right. So, Bob, tell me about at the height of it, how difficult was the work? How challenging was the work?

SLAYTON: Well, setting up the tents wasn't really a challenge for the boys because we do it all the time on the campouts. As the boys were walking around, there were people trying to set up tents that didn't know what they were doing, and our boys help train the people on how to set up the tents. And so that made things go a lot easier.

HARRIS: Bob, I guess I speak for everyone who is out there at Qualcomm, that benefited from your work, and the work of the Scouts. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for being there and thanks for helping.

SLAYTON: You're welcome. HARRIS: Okay, Bob. Thank you.

SLAYTON: Thank you.

HARRIS: And moved by what you see? There's opportunity here for you to take some action. You can help victims of the California wildfires through our Impact Your World initiative. Here is what you do. Go once again to cnn.com/impact, and there you will find ways to help.

COLLINS: Incredible images, a tornado in the midst of a fire. A fire lesson all of us need to know. Stick around for this in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Fighting a wildfire is one thing. Understanding how a fire behaves is certainly another. Fire behavior analyst Mark Beighley is with us now. He's with the U.S. Office of Wildland Fire Coordination in Washington.

And. Mark, I know you're coordinating the federal government's response to these fires out of Boise. Can you give us an update first off?

MARK BEIGHLEY, DIR., OFFICE OF WILDLAND FIRE COORDINATION: Oh, yes, I can. The situation is improving. Certainly the Santa Ana winds are letting up. I think we'll see a lot of progress in the next two or three days in containing these fires.

Certainly there have been resources from all over the country that have been sent to Southern California to deal with this problem. It is a -- certainly an event of devastating proportion, as you have seen on the news. There's been in the neighborhood of a half a million individuals who have been evacuated from their homes. Certainly this is a record for a wildland fire event.

COLLINS: I was just going to say, Mark, is that what really stands out to you? I'm looking at some of your notes here, and you're saying that really the evacuations are just unprecedented here and some comparisons being made to Katrina.

BEIGHLEY: Exactly. It's tough to make comparisons exactly with Katrina because of the length of the event. It certainly took place over a period of several weeks to months, and the wildland fire situations generally are less than a week, and certainly we hope to get a handle on these fires within the next couple of days.

COLLINS: And one to four days you are noting here the Santa Ana winds are usually winds that last one to four days. Just makes everything so unpredictable.

BEIGHLEY: Oh, yes. It's a very challenging situation for firefighters as well as the public. The Santa Ana winds, which blow up to 80 miles an hour, certainly create conditions that are unsafe for everybody. And in order for the firefighters to take effective action on fires, they have to look out for their own safety as well, and that's part of the challenge of fighting these fires.

COLLINS: Yeah, and unfortunately, you know, we just got word in here a little while ago, Mark, that there were two more bodies that were found. So the death toll now, at least, as we know it here. CNN has confirmed eight people that have died. And 78 people have been injured.

I know there also have been some comparisons and we hear a lot of people talking when we interview them, about the Cedar Fire back in 2003. Tell me a little bit more about that. Something like 3,400 structures were demolished in that fire and so far in this one, again the situation continuing to change, we're at about 1,600.

BEIGHLEY: And I think that's a success story for us. In 2003 there were 20 fatalities. And, of course, right now as you said, there are eight. I think that's a success story. In the Cedar Fire, we had 3,000 or 3,400 structures destroyed. I think the count now is up to just over 1,500. I think that the Cedar Fire, or the response to the Cedar Fire was that we are much better prepared to deal with these kinds of conditions now, than we were then.

In just a few years we've improved our response to where we can get in, get people in to Southern California quickly so that when the Santa Ana winds let up, we are able to get a handle on these fires as quickly as possible.

COLLINS: Yeah, yeah. All about the wind though, unfortunately. What about this arson investigation? We know from our reporters out on the scene there that one fire, the Santiago Fire, they're actually looking at two different locations where they believe arsonists may have started these fires. How do you tell? This has to be quite a lengthy process.

BEIGHLEY: It's a tough challenge. Certainly our fire investigators are very skilled at determining the location of where the fires start. Once they do that, then they look for evidence. One of the problems we have is a lot of times the evidence is actually burned up in the fire, and then when we have these 70-, 80-mile-an- hour winds, the ashes from that evidence then are scattered all over the hillside.

COLLINS: Yeah.

BEIGHLEY: It makes it very difficult.

COLLINS: What about the leaves? Isn't there a way you look at the leaves, something about the way the oxygen is drained from them, and you look at how -- what direction they're pointing in or something?

BEIGHLEY: There are indicators that are left on scene that will tell us which way the fire burned as it went through a certain area. That's how they pinpoint how a fire started. They work it backwards to find out the source of the origin.

COLLINS: Fascinating. And I know people have mentioned before to us how amazed they are by how random the fire's path moves. We have seen many pictures where on one street there will be several homes that are destroyed. And then, this photo we're showing right now, you see the other homes around it just, they're standing there. I don't know if they're perfectly fine. I imagine there's smoke damage, but they're not burned down.

BEIGHLEY: Well, this is a factor both of the fire behavior and of the structure itself. Many structures that were built 10, 15, 20, 30 years ago are not built to withstand these kinds of fires. A lot of the newer structures are built to what we call fire-wise specifications and they can resist embers landing on the roofs, embers blowing up under the eaves and into the crawl spaces.

So, what you see is a combination of fire behavior, the fire whirls, the fire tornadoes that you've seen, those move randomly, and those deposit embers in a random way on these houses. And then some of the houses are much better at resisting ignition than others.

COLLINS: Yeah, and just from listening to you talk here, I'm sure you work very closely with the firefighters and all of their hard work and all of those people out there we have been hearing 40 hours at a pop, straight trying to work to get these things under control and help save people's lives and homes. So hats off to them.

We appreciate your time here. Mark Beighley, thank you so much.

BEIGHLEY: Thank you very much.

HARRIS: Winds dying down today, aircraft back in the air today. More on the turn in the weather that's helping firefighters turn the corner in California.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook are growing in popularity and now Microsoft is doing some networking of its own and is buying a stake in Facebook. Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange now, with more details on this.

That's pretty interesting. Hey there, Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Heidi.

Microsoft is paying $240 million for a less than 2 percent stake in Facebook.

COLLINS: Wow.

LISOVICZ: Yes, that's a lot for a tiny little stake. Not much money for a company as big as Microsoft, but keep in mind that Facebook is a company that isn't even profitable yet. Not only that, the deal values FaceBook at $15 billion, which is on par with what the market value is for The Gap and Marriott.

So, $15 billion also isn't bad considering Facebook's 23-year-old creator passed up a $1 billion offer from Yahoo just a year ago. Mark Zuckerberg is probably one of the most popular eligible bachelors in the Silicon Valley right now. Just a wild guess.

COLLINS: I have no doubt. So why, though, is Microsoft willing to pay such a premium? Do they know something we don't know, because there's been no profit yet?

LISOVICZ: Well, advertising is one huge reason. Microsoft betting that Facebook's momentum will accelerate. It already has 50 million active users worldwide, second only to MySpace. And Microsoft believes Facebook could eventually reach 300 million users. And as part of the deal many of those users will be the target of advertising sold by Microsoft.

Advertising, one of Microsoft's weak points when compared to rival Google. Recently Microsoft and Google went head-to-head in a quest to acquire companies like YouTube, but ad service firm, DoubleClick, but Google won both times. So this deal with Facebook should give Microsoft a much-needed boost.

As for Facebook, the cash injection will allow it to more than double its workforce over the next year. We'll keep our eye on that.

Microsoft shares, meanwhile, are up right now 2 percent. The market overall is struggling. The latest report on housing offers a glimmer of hope, Heidi. New home sales in September actually increased, but that's only because August numbers were revised sharply lower.

But here is a real glimmer of hope. New home prices rose 2.5 percent from August, which had seen prices fall to the lowest level in nearly a year. And remember, yesterday we got the report on existing home sales, the biggest part of the housing market, and that showed an 8 percent decline in September. So still problems, but, you know, there's also maybe a glimmer of hope.

Checking the numbers, the Dow trying to rally. Right now, up 4 points. The Nasdaq composite is down 9 points or a third of a percent. That's the latest from Wall Street.

Heidi, back to you.

COLLINS: OK. Susan, we're going to keep our fingers crossed for all of it. Thank you very much. We'll check back later -- actually we won't, but we will later in the day.

LISOVICZ: I'll be here.

COLLINS: Stay right where you are. Thanks, Susan.

HARRIS: So what are fire investigators saying about some of the wildfires in Southern California? Some may have been deliberately set. More information to come right here in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Smoke, soot, and haze. So what are the health risks associated with these fires? CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has some surprises you may not have realized.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): So how bad is the air in Southern California? This filter paper started out pristine white, and now look at it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This filter ran for 24 hours at one of our marking stations.

COHEN: So what's in the air? Soot, at levels four times higher than usual. Carbon monoxide levels at some points have been 13 times higher than usual, and particulates, those tiny pieces that can get lodged in the lungs, 10 times higher. If you've been breathing in this air every day --

KIM PRATHER, UNIV. OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO: Your lungs are basically filters, so they would be blackish or brownish in color.

COHEN: Kim Prather is an environmental chemist at the University of California, San Diego . She's been monitoring the air ever since the wildfires started. Her data shows it's an airborne toxic soup.

(On camera): It's not just trees that are burning. There some other stuff that is burning.

PRATHER: Right, right. You worry about plastics, metals, cars, rubber.

COHEN (voice over): Breathing in tiny particles affects more than just the lungs.

PRATHER: They end up in your liver. They're shown to appear in every organ in your body, including the brain.

COHEN: And the long-term effects of breathing in this every day? Prather says no one really knows. Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, San Diego, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: You know her as an Oscar-award winning actress who often plays a funny character like that -- what is it that "Romey and Michelle" movie. Remember that?

But in her new movie, "Reservation Road", Mira Sorvino faces the death of a child. In the real world the welfare of children is an issue that this mother and activist is extremely passionate about it. In our "CNN Heroes" sharing the spotlight series, Sorvino introduces us to her hero.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIRA SORVINO, ACTRESS, CHILD ADVOCATE: Help is not always reaching our most precious, vulnerable human beings. You just want to scream and cry and do everything that you can. I'm Mira Sorvino, and my hero is Maya Ajmera, who is helping the worlds most marginalized and vulnerable children.

MAYA AJMERA, GLOBAL FUND FOR CHILDREN: Something happened, which is what I call my moment of obligation in my life. At this train station, in India, I saw 40 kids learning how to read and write. And there was this incredible teacher teaching them. And she said, these kids live on and around the train platforms. They do not go to school. And it was right there and then that I decided to make bets on small organizations and help make them stronger.

SORVINO: She has created a Global Fund for Children. It's really a sort of venture philanthropy model. And her group is so good at scouting out those groups in all of these developing countries that really can make a difference in children's lives.

AJMERA: I would love to see us in Russia. I think that should be a real focus for us.

We go out into the world and scout for really extraordinary groups. In addition, we wanted to teach kids about the global village that we live in.

Now, that's great.

SORVINO: She developed a whole book publishing division of her group, which is all about global children.

AJMERA: Children are beautiful. You know, even if you're poor, we have to show images that show their resilience and their beauty.

SORVINO: In my own model as an activist on issues such as Darfur, I really strive to see results. Maya Ajmera has really taken the smallest seed and turned it into a flowering forest of significance for children around the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: And you can go to CNN.com/heroes to see how Mira and Maya are kindred spirits. While you're there, you can also vote for the CNN Hero who has most inspired you. The viewer's choice will be honored during a special live global broadcast on December 6th, hosted by our own Anderson Cooper.

COLLINS: Staying strong after the walls come tumbling down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mom is crying, and I'm like don't cry. It's just -- it's not coming back. We're starting over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Faith following the wildfires.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: CNN NEWSROOM continues just one hour from now.

HARRIS: "Your World Today" is next with news happening across the globe, and here at home. I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: I'm Heidi Collins. We'll see you right back here tomorrow.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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