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Precious Memories After Fire; Fighting the Flames; Superbug Death

Aired October 26, 2007 - 14:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: The California wildfire situation improving a bit but still fierce.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Flames still threaten thousands of homes. We're live with the pilots fighting the inferno from above.

LEMON: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

WHITFIELD: And I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Kyra Phillips, who is on assignment.

The wildfire situation in southern California is still serious, but it's improving. Here's what we know right now.

More than half of the 23 fires in the region are fully contained. Lighter winds and cloud cover are making the battle easier. And seven deaths are a direct result of the fires.

Arson investigations are under way in at least three counties. In Orange County, the reward in the Santiago Fire investigation has ballooned to $250,000. Across the region, at least five people have been arrested in connection with arson, but right now those arrests are not believed to be linked to any of the major fires.

In San Diego County, a sign of progress. The Qualcomm Stadium is shutting down today as a shelter. At the peak of the evacuations, it housed 11,000 people.

LEMON: In Rancho Bernardo and many other parts of southern California, people are looking over the charred remains of their homes and trying to figure out what, if anything, can be salvaged.

CNN Senior Correspondent Allan Chernoff has the story of something that was saved.

Allan, what was that?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's get to that in just a moment. First, let me tell you that these are the ashes of the home of Jim and Paris Noyes. They had saved for years to buy this property and had closed on it only two months ago.

When they came back yesterday, the only thing that remained was a fireproof safe, and inside of that safe some very valuable documents and some very sentimental items as well. They feared that inside of the safe the items might have been burned.

The safe actually was so badly damaged that the lock itself was burned off. We called the San Diego Fire Department to open it. They came right over with chainsaws, and they worked at it for more than 20 minutes.

Finally, they were able to get inside, and to Jim's delight they actually found everything still inside. And he was just incredibly, incredibly grateful, because in there was a letter that his mom had written to his dad on their wedding day 49 years ago, and Jim was just virtually speechless.

Let's have a listen to what he said.


JIM NOYES, LOST HIS HOME: Thank you. Yes, that's what I wanted right there.

That was from my mom in 1958. She gave that to my dad on their wedding day. And it said, "Take this and coin and hold on to it and it will never be broken."

I never thought I would see that again. That's the most important thing to me, is that envelope right there.


CHERNOFF: Jim said that envelope and that letter was even more important to him than the home. And let me read just a little bit from that letter that his mother wrote 49 years ago.

"May we always be as happy as we are today. May our love grow and grow and this silver dollar" -- which was enclosed with the letter -- "always keep, and we will never be completely broke."

An incredibly touching letter that Jim was at least able to salvage, real evidence that sentimental items sometimes can transcend the material.

Back to you in the studio.

LEMON: Oh, that's a nice story, Allan Chernoff. Thank you very much for that.

WHITFIELD: Well, meantime, fire fighters are still battling flames in the Lake Arrowhead area east of Los Angeles.

CNN's Ted Rowlands is there.

And Ted, what are the signs of progress, if any?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, huge signs, Fredricka.

Lake Arrowhead, this region, there were two fires that ripped through here. This was the second hardest hit area outside of San Diego County, 500 homes lost. But today especially they have been able to make incredible progress.

We've been seeing them making air drops on this. This is one of the many fronts of this fire that are still left.

The weather has been perfect for firefighting, especially from the air. The skies are clear for the first time, allowing basically continuous drops on all of the hot spots here for the first time, too.

We are hearing that homeowners are going to have an opportunity to go back into their homes, the ones that were not damaged. That will take place at some point today. They will be escorted up, and then there will be a curfew in place, but they will have access to their homes.

Great news for some of the 12,000 that have been evacuated.

Ground crews are still working yesterday and today, basically just trying to contain the fire, keeping them off any roadways, and the cleanup portion of this mess has started in earnest because of this huge break in the weather. This mountainous community was really hit hard, not only by the fires, but by the weather conditions and the conditions that the fire left behind.

There are downed power lines everywhere here, so some residents were told it would be maybe two weeks before they could come in. Now they are actually letting some of them in today. Great news here. Really a huge break in the weather is factor, and firefighters are exploiting it from the air and from the ground -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Ted. Thanks so much. Glad things are starting to shape up there.

LEMON: Absolutely.

A child in New York City in the public schools there has apparently died of drug-resistant staph infection. Health Department officials say the so-called "superbug" was the likely cause of death of seventh grader Omar Rivera. The case is coming to light as schools across the country are looking at ways to head off potential outbreaks.

With more from New York now, CNN's Jim Acosta.

Hi, Jim.


And this is the letter that parents and students received yesterday from the school system, and the first line says it all. "Dear Parent or Guardian, Sadly a student in IS-211 has died."

That is John Wilson Junior High School here in Brooklyn, and the name of the student is not in the letter. The school official did not disclose this, but parents and teachers and students, they all know who this kid is. He is 12-year-old Omar Rivera, a seventh grader here at this middle school, and he died on October 14th, apparently from this drug- resistant staph infection known as the "superbug," and so people are quite alarmed here. They are getting all sorts of pieces of information from the school system in terms of washing their hands, making sure that they follow proper hygiene and that sort of thing, but that may not answer all of the questions here.

There are parents here who are quite frankly pretty upset that they got this notification apparently 11 days after this student died. And it isn't clear at this point as to what school officials knew and when they knew it, but students, they are telling reporters that they knew that this young man Omar was sick for some time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was at lunch and he had told me something about something that was on his leg, and he had like a whole bunch of stuff on his back. So then I didn't know what to do, so I just sent him to the nurse. And from then I never saw him again.



DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, NYC HEALTH COMMISSIONER: Well, we've seen clusters in schools. It's been when there are gym teams or sports teams that are sharing towels and not doing good hand-washing. Washing your hands well, not sharing towels or razors or other personal items, are important to prevent the spread of staph and other infections.


ACOSTA: And that was the health commissioner here in New York City, basically saying that they believe at this point that the risk of spreading this infection is very low. That may not calm things down out here in Brooklyn, where people are very upset about what happened to this young man. And at this point, out in front of the school, the electronic bulletin board says it all. It says, "Our hearts go out to our young angel."

So some very tough feelings out here about the death of this young man from what is now being called the superbug -- Don.

LEMON: All right. Jim Acosta.

Thank you for that report, Jim.

WHITFIELD: A Russian serial killer says he felt like God when deciding whether his victims would live or die. The latest on the so- called "Chess Killer" straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Kyra Phillips, live on the flight line right here at Gillespie Air Field, where you can see all the various air assets going out to fight these wildfires in California. This private contractor just got back.

You can see the basket there attached. It's an orange basket. It holds a couple hundred gallons of water. We've been talking about how the fires have been fought from the air.

Coming up after the break, I'm going to introduce you to the firefighters and the inmates who have been helping fight these fires on the ground.

That's coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM.

LEMON: And Kyra, many people devastated by the wildfires are pet owners. So what happens to Spot while they rebuild their lives? Well, we'll tell you about a new leash on life coming up.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.



LEMON: The skies over the fire zone are busy today and loud with the thump of helicopters attacking the flames from above.

Our Kyra Phillips is in El Cajon with the very latest on that.

Hi, Kyra.


We're here live on the flight line at Gillespie Air Field in El Cajon, California, in the San Diego area. And we've been talking so much about the air operations, all of them launching off this field right here.

You can see a lot of private -- a couple of the private contractors here that have already landed. They are refueling right now.

You can see the orange baskets. That's what holds the couple hundred pounds of water. That's how they are dousing those flames.

Now, when I was up in the Black Hawk yesterday on a number of these water drops, I noticed down on the ground, we were able to see the firefighters, we were able to see how the water was helping the firefighters really push back these flames and try to extinguish them. And at the same time when I saw these firefighters, I noticed all the prison inmates side by side working the lines with them, and I grew up here in San Diego and I never realized that there was this program where the inmates were used, low-risk felons, to work with firefighters in times of need like this, especially with the massive wildfires where they are strapped on personnel. They bring them in to help.

So I had a lot of questions about that. I went over to the base camp today and connected actually with the inmates. I met one, Jack Dorsey. He's been convicted of drug possession. He's been out working the lines.

I caught up with him just as he got back, and I wanted to ask him about how this program has affected him and how hard the work was and how he felt it was changing his life. This is what he told me.


JACK DORSEY, PRISON INMATE: It gives us more work ethics and better morals. We're out there with people that are upstanding citizens that do a good job every day. They work hard, and that rubs off on us. We work hard out there for the regular society.

PHILLIPS: Is it hard work?

DORSEY: It's very hard work.

PHILLIPS: Describe it to me.

DORSEY: Well, we've got 17 guys that cut through heavy brush with chainsaws and polaskis which is a type of ax. We cut through all night long. We just cut two miles last night, and we've been out there for 96 hours, so it's pretty demanding physically.

PHILLIPS: Do you know when you're going to get out of jail?

DORSEY: I get out this December.

PHILLIPS: So what do you think? Maybe firefighting as a career?

DORSEY: I'd love to. I'd love to.

LT. BRYAN JOHNSON, CALIFORNIA DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS: When you watch these guys, 17 men, they use peer pressure on each other and so nobody slacks. I mean, these guys are working hard. And the captains, the fire captains, are there watching, they're making sure they are doing it right. They are teaching them so that they are saving their lives, you know.

They know what's safe, what isn't safe. And it's a very unique program where we have men who feel like they are really paying back for their crimes. You know, they really feel like that. It's almost like penance.


PHILLIPS: Now, Don, you know I had to ask the lieutenant about the security situation, especially when I was talking to Jack and he mentioned that these low-risk felons use chainsaws. I thought, hmm, OK, let's see, convicted felons, chainsaws, what's the security in a situation like this? Are firefighters at risk?

And basically what he told me is these felons are handpicked based on their crime. And security is tight. And the firefighters are watching over them, and that this program has been very successful.

And a lot of these guys when they get out of prison, because of this program, this camp that they have been involved with, this rehabilitation, they're learning a skill and they actually work for various fire departments. They get out, they go through the training, and they take on an entirely different life. I mean, a lot of these guys haven't had any family, any support network, so they get thrown into this program, and the next thing you know they have got a career once they get out of jail if they stay clean.

LEMON: Oh, absolutely, Kyra. And that's what -- it's supposed to be about rehabilitation.

You've got more stuff coming up. You want to tell us real quick?

PHILLIPS: That's right. I was able to connect with a fire chief and his guys that have been here from San Francisco helping to fight the fires. They just got off the fire line about an hour and a half ago. They have been going for almost 48 hours, bloodshot eyes, exhausted, but you're going to hear from them and what it was like to be out there battling those fires.

LEMON: All right, Kyra. Much appreciated. We look forward to that.

Thank you.

Moved by what you see? Then you can take action. You can help victims of the California wildfires through our Impact Your World initiative. Just go to to see how to help.

WHITFIELD: A convicted serial killer says his murderous inspiration came through a board game. Will sentencing day mean checkmate for Russia's so-called "Chessboard Killer"?

We'll explain straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.



LEMON: Four-legged survivors of the California wildfires, if their owners are homeless, they are homeless, too. But thanks to a pet project, the critters, well, they are covered.

It's coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: And understanding fire by studying the rubble.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see the char pattern on both sides there? But there's more char from here to here, and actually the pipe is melted there. You look back up here and it's somewhat protected. That would also tell me that the fire came from this direction.


WHITFIELD: Pretty fascinating stuff. CNN's Anderson Cooper reports straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


LEMON: The wildfire situation in Southern California still serious but improving. Here's what we know right now. More than half of the 23 fires in the region are fully contained. Lighter winds and cloud cover are making the battle easier.

Seven deaths are a direct result of the fires. Arson investigations are under way in at least three counties. In Orange County the reward in the Santiago Fire investigation has ballooned to a quarter of a million dollars. Across the region at least five people have been arrested in connection with arson, but right now those arrests are not believed to be linked to any of the major fires.

In San Diego County, a sign of progress. Qualcomm Stadium is shutting down today as a shelter. At the peak of the evacuations it housed 11,000 people.

WHITFIELD: Searching for arson clues. It's like an episode of "CSI." Battalion Chief Doug Lannon showed CNN's Anderson Cooper what investigators are actually looking for.


BATTALION CHIEF DOUG LANNON, CALIF. DEPT. FIRE PROTECTION: We're going to walk over to this fence here, and one of the things that I might use to indicate the direction, is I look at the -- the vegetation. We've got vegetation that's burned on both sides, so I'll come up and I'll just pick a spot on the fence. And I'll rub my finger on it. And I don't have a whole lot of soot there. There's a little bit. But I'll go on the back side and you have soot. So that tells me that the came through that way through the fence.

And I'll do it in a number of places. Let's just use a different finger and do it on this side. A little bit of soot but on the back side of that, see what I mean? And you also have a similar on the back end of this fence post. And we'll have some soot on the back side of that, too.

Sometimes I'll look at areas like this. Now this bin, they make fence poles out of aluminum now. So they do bend when they climb over the fence poles, but sometimes if there's enough vegetation down at the base, if it heats up, it can actually cause this to kind of warp and move into the direction that the fire came from.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "AC 360": Oh, really? Because normally I would think that this would be bending away from the fire but this might actually bend into the fire.

LANNON: It actually bends in. And sometimes when the fire -- that's one of the ways we can kind of get back to where the fire is less intense, sometimes the grass heads, as the fire just kind of moves in, the grass heads will just kind of fall and point in the direction that the fire came in if it's a less intense fire.

I'll use non-native vegetation. I'll use maybe something that's solid that was on the ground, and you'll see that this pipe here, we have some major charring. And we have some charring that goes up both sides, and if we look back to where we figured the fire was coming from, it's kind of right in line and you actually see the char patterns on both sides there?


LANNON: But there's more char from here to here. And actually the pipe is melted there. You look back up here. And it's somewhat protected. That would also tell me that the fire came from this direction.

COOPER: More intense here.

LANNON: More intense where it hit. And then it continued on, and the lee side of it there has very little damage.

COOPER: Fascinating. It's amazing. I mean, it's really like a crime scene. It really tells a stories.

LANNON: That's exactly it. It's forensics. We go to, you know, similar schools for those kinds of things. And, you know, indicators and signs and things like that are real helpful for us to do our job.


WHITFIELD: All right. That is pretty fascinating stuff.

All right. Well, one of the other harsh realities of fires it means that not only are a lot of people left homeless, but so are a lot of pets. So what happens to Fido or Fluffy while the owners try to put their lives back together? An organization called New Leash On Life, has that pretty well covered. Bobby Dorafshar, the founder of New Leash on Life joins us now from Los Angeles.

Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: I'm doing pretty good.

These pets are members of the family, but in so many cases people couldn't even get to their homes in which to retrieve their pets, or for some other reasons they had to leave them behind. So for those pets that did survive these fires how is it that you've been able to round them up?

DORAFSHAR: We were really blessed. We got a lot of phone calls from public, which they could not get home, and they let us know their addresses which we can go and rescue these animals. And we just did that. We've done the same thing any other rescue person would do. We are just blessed, we have some training to be able to go forward and take care of these issues.

WHITFIELD: So how many pets were you able to rescue, do you think?

DORAFSHAR: For the first time in the history of disaster I feel every other organization, they took a role in this and allowed people to bring their animals to the places they were staying as a temporary. With L.A. County Care Control, animal care control unit, being on the field as well and we got information from public, we would be able to gather as much information as we get and be able to pull knows animals out.

In our rescue center we pulled in around 35 dogs and cats in a matter of a day, and we had a lot of people, they dropped their animals because they had to be evacuated or they didn't have a home to go to.

WHITFIELD: Wow, and so how do you then find the rightful owner for these pets that you simply found or brought to you, perhaps a pet owner didn't tell you to go to their home and try and find their pet. How do you match these pets up with their owners?

DORAFSHAR: Well, the good thing about it, every location we went, we actually -- we got their address, we know exactly where they are. We're just waiting for people to go back to their homes, and then people will give them a visit.


DORAFSHAR: Unfortunately, we have no phone, but we also work with the local shelter, make sure that everybody knows where their animals are. There is only a couple shelters locally which handle with this issue. And also our organization is one of the organizations in the middle of this fire so, shelters, they are notified. He do have some of the animals and we will visit this family and return their companion to them as soon as possible.

WHITFIELD: I understand in some cases, too, there were folks who were out of town. Their pets were stuck in their homes threatened by fire. They called you and you were actually able to go to these homes as well, even though the home owner was nowhere to be seen, nowhere close to being in town.

DORAFSHAR: We had one situation like that which I'm glad they found our number and to be able to let us know where we have to go. One of the recommendations I always have as a pet owner, any time if you are going to leave town, rather than get the neighbors to cake care of it. It would be great if you can put your dog or cat in somewhere safe, a safety environment. And also it would be great if they have the phone number of the local shelters and the organization locally, so a situation of disaster comes they would be able to contact these organizations.

That would be the best thing they can do. Obviously they have collars and tags on their animals, it would help when we find these beautiful creatures. It would give us the opportunity to get in touch with them right away.

WHITFIELD: Or guess the little chips that people are putting in their dogs and cats these days is really helpful, too.

DORAFSHAR: It is most amazing but, unfortunately, even if you have the chip, the collar and tag would be helpful because sometimes we don't have access to scanners.


DORAFSHAR: And a phone number to be able to call. So the chip is great for the emergency contact as well but a simple collar and tag it would us so much.

WHITFIELD: All right. Good advice. All right, Bobby Dorafshar, founder of New Leash On Life. Thank you so much for your time.

DORAFSHAR: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: I know a lot of pet owners are happy that you're around.

So, perhaps you want to find out more about the group and how you can help out their cause. Check out their new website,

LEMON: We have some developing news when it comes to the wildfires in San Diego. Here's the news: It is Qualcomm Stadium, there was some concern that the game this weekend on Sunday would not be able to be played there. That they would have to move it and re- jigger the entire NFL schedule. Well, the mayor just announced a short time ago, and CNN has confirmed that the San Diego Chargers will play the Houston Texans in Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday, October 28th, 1:05 p.m. Pacific Time. So not to fear. Things are getting back to normal when it comes to the sports -- yeah, football is back.

WHITFIELD: Football is still on the schedule.

LEMON: Let's hope they rebuild just as fast as they get that sports schedule back up and running.

Genarlow Wilson will soon be a free man. Wilson was a teenager when he was sent to prison for 10 years for having sex with a teenage girl. The Georgia supreme court today ordered that Wilson be released. He has already served more than two years. The court in a 4 to 3 vote, called his 10-year sentence, quote, "cruel and unusual punishment." Wilson is expected to be released from prison today in Forsythe, Georgia. CNN's Rusty Dornin is there.

Hi, Rusty.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, we are awaiting word. We understand that B.J. Bernstein is on her way with Genarlow Wilson's mother and little sister, and should be here in probably about a half hour. We're unsure of the timing of when the release will happen. But we can show you, it's rather unusual the way he's going to be coming out, because he's not going to be coming down through the inside of those fences. He's actually going to be escorted down the street, on the side, there, behind that "Do Not Enter" sign. And he is going to be coming on foot, with an escort, out here to a waiting car. And, of course, the people here have told us, don't swarm the car. You will be arrested if you get that close to the car. And then he will be taken out.

Now, just to show you in the interest -- national interest, locally, here we have a camp, of course, of media here, and reporters who are just ready to talk to Mr. Wilson and find out how he's feeling, finally after all of this time to be a free man again. But from what we understand it will be happening sometime this afternoon. We're not sure of the exact timing -- Don.

LEMON: OK, we'll be watching. It looks like a lot of people will be watching, Rusty, and, of course, B.J. Bernstein, a contributor here as well. Hopefully Rusty will have a chance to talk to her and talk to Genarlow Wilson, his mother, and also his little sister. We'll continue to follow this developing story.

WHITFIELD: And a very happy mother.

LEMON: Oh, a very happy family. Yes.

WHITFIELD: It will be good to hear from all of them.

Straight ahead, a convicted serial killer says his murderous inspiration actually came from a board game. Will sentencing day mean checkmate for Russia's so called chessboard killer? We'll explain, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: One of Russia's most notorious serial killers faces sentencing next week. He's called the Chessboard Killer, convicted of killing dozens in a decade-long murder spree through Moscow. Many Russians feel it's impossible to punish him in a way befitting his crimes. CNN's International Correspondent Matthew Chance has the story.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTL. CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Back in court on Monday Alexander Pichuskin is expected to be handed the maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Russia's moratorium on the death penalty means one of it's most prolific serial killer escapes execution. He could be kept in solitary confinement for at least 15 years. Plenty of time to consider the 48 murders over six years, he's convicted of.

Throughout his trial Pichuskin gloated over the crimes claiming to have actually killed 61 people. He's also ridiculed the police investigation to stop him. ALEXANDER PICHUSHKIN, CONVICTED SERIAL KILLER (through translator): (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they detained a scapegoat. I was dismayed my work had been attributed to others. In one week I killed two people. If they hadn't caught me I never would have stopped. Having caught me they saved many lives.

CHANCE: Over the years police recovered dozens of corpses, some with sticks and vodka bottles rammed into their shattered skulls. Pichuskin's name and telephone number was found on a piece of paper in the home of the last victim, a woman he worked with in a local vegetable store.

(On camera): Well, this is the heavily forested bits of park on the southern outskirts of Moscow, where Pichuskin is alleged to have carried out his serial murders. He would lure his victims here with the offer of alcohol, getting them drunk on vodka before viciously beating them to death and dumping their bodies.

(Voice over): Police say his motive seems to have been a bizarre aim to kill one person for each of the 64 squares of a chessboard. Criminal psychologists say his was a truly warped mind.

ALEXANDER THOSTOV, MOSCOW STATE UNIVERSITY (through translator): I got the feeling he was proud of his murders, that he thinks of himself as a truly powerful person, above the law. And he doesn't seem to have any regrets or conscience about his actions.

CHANCE: And now Russia's Chessboard Killer will have his final day in the public eye before a lifetime locked away.


CHANCE: Well, Fredericka, this Alexander Pichuskin character really does seem to have relished his times in the public eye so far. When his verdict was passed down, guilty for those 48 murders, he derided the court, saying it had only decided the fate of one person, whereas he had determined the future for more than 60. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh, brazen. So what about Russia's moratorium on the death penalty?

CHANCE: Well, that moratorium was put in force back in 1990, just before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Such has been the public outrage here in Russia that this Pichuskin has killed so many Russian citizens, 48 convicted. He said he's killed 61, as I say. There's been lots of public calls for that moratorium to be suspended for this case alone, so that this guy can be executed. But the authorities -- the legal authorities here have ruled that out. They say they are not going to change the law, they're not going to lift this moratorium just for this one serial killer -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: That's a powerful case. Matthew Chance, thanks so much from Moscow.

LEMON: It's 47 past the hour. Three of the stories we're working on for you here in the CNN NEWSROOM: Supporters of Genarlow Wilson say they are thrilled. The Georgia supreme court today order Wilson's release from prison. Wilson was 17 years old when he had consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl. The court says his 10- year prison sentence was excessive.

A bond hearing is set next hour for Clifford Harris Jr., the rapper known as T.I. He was arrested in Atlanta earlier this month on firearms charges.

And new concerns about the drug-resistant staph infection known as MRSA. This time in New York's public schools. The death of a 12- year-old Brooklyn middle school student has parents demanding answers.

WHITFIELD: A family returning to ruins found an unexpected treasure right on their front lawn.


Knowing that other people realized just what is important to the people in these houses, that they would be brave enough and courageous enough to not only care about trying to save your house, but if they don't save it that they will go in and try save some of those memories.


WHITFIELD: Wow. So that story is straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


LEMON: Live pictures now, Lake Arrowhead, California. And can you see just smoke and smoldering. Much of what's going on there now in Southern California, since those wildfires began last Sunday afternoon sometime. Fire fighters have gotten a handle on about 14 of the 22 wildfires. They are fully contained. So far scorched about 765 square miles of land there.

Want to tell you this, Qualcomm Stadium. There was some concern that the Chargers may not be able to play there on Sunday. As it turns out, they will be able to play there. They will play the Houston Texans at 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time and 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time. So if you want to watch the game you can watch it on television, or you could go to Qualcomm Stadium and enjoy the game with the Houston Texans and the San Francisco Chargers.

Going home for some evacuees in Southern California, it's a wrenching ordeal. Returning to find little, if anything, left. CNN's Brian Todd made the emotional journey with one family.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With little notice they pour back in, hundreds of families returning to a devastated neighborhood in Rancho Bernardo. Most are elated and relieved.

SUSAN BERKOWITZ, RANCHO BERNARDO RESIDENT: I can't believe what -- that everything looks like. I really feel for the people whose houses are not standing. We are incredibly, incredibly lucky.

TODD: For others normalcy returns with the simple things, hanging out with friends in front of the house, playing with the dog.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, you have been a nervous wreck, you poor things.

TODD: Just yards away, others are digging through the devastation.

EVA PETERS, LOST HOME IN WILDFIRE: You can feel the heat coming off of this. It's still warm in there.

TODD: Eva Peters says her family escaped just a few minutes before the Witch Fire destroyed her home on Agua Meal (ph) Road. Despite almost total loss some things did make it. When they returned they found these family pictures wrapped in a blanket on the front yard. Eva is convinced a fire fighter risked death getting these out for them.

PETERS: Knowing that other people realize what is important to the people in these houses, that they would be brave enough and courageous enough to not only care about trying to save your house, but if they don't save it that they will go in and try to save some of those memories that you can't recreate. They did what they could. And they are heroes. It's just amazing what they have done.

TODD: Eva says she doesn't know who the firefighter was, but she has three words for him or her, "God bless, you."

Despite all the devastation Eva Peters says they will not only move back into this area they are going to rebuild right on this spot. Brian Todd, CNN, Rancho Bernardo, California.


LEMON: If you are moved by what you see, then take some action. Help the victims of the California wildfires through our Impact Your World Initiative. Just go to, to see how to help.

WHITFIELD: It's the role that actor Ed Begley, Jr. had lived for years, environmentalist. Straight ahead. We'll take you inside the home of the Hollywood star who went green long before it was cool.


WHITFIELD: Well, seeing how Hollywood's rich and famous live can make any of us a little green with envy. But the kind of green you see in actor Ed Begley, Jr.'s home, is just a little different. CNN's Brooke Anderson reports.


ED BEGLEY, JR., ACTOR, CONSERVATIONIST: They thought I was insane. Driving around in an electric in 1970? They thought I was mad. BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN HOLLYWOOD CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Ed Begley Jr., wasn't crazy, just eco-friendly, decades before it was hip. Best known for the '80s show, "St. Elsewhere", and films like, "A Mighty Wind", Begley is also famous for his unfaltering commitment to the environment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ed Begley, everyone in my community wants to be Ed Begley.

ANDERSON: The actor and his wife, Rachelle, are leading by example in their TV show, "Living with Ed".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ed and Rachelle, they're coming over to explain to me how badly I've misbehaved and what I might be able to do to redeem myself.

ANDERSON: Begley's own home of 19 years in a modest suburb of Los Angeles, is the prototype of all things environmentally conscious, from the front entrance gate.

BEGLEY: It's made from recycled milk jugs.

ANDERSON: To the Halloween decorations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a solar panel on the top, and it lights up at night. It's a solar pumpkin.

BEGLEY: Very quiet.

ANDERSON: Inside recycled denim provides insulation, and in the kitchen --

BEGLEY: Look at this countertop. This is made from recycled coke bottles.

ANDERSON: Outside Begley has more than 100 solar panels on the roof, a wind turbine, a solar oven for cooking.

BEGLEY: What temperature is that? 375 degrees, Brooke, all from the sun.

ANDERSON: And faux grass made of old tires.

BEGLEY: You don't have to worry about stealing water from Northern California. You can lay on it. It's very comfortable. And it's not only recycled material, it is recyclable.

ANDERSON: Begley grows his own vegetables, makes his own compost, charges his electric car in the garage.

BEGLEY: Solar panels lead to batteries, batteries lead to inverter, inverter leads to charger.

ANDERSON: Hezbollah even cruises around on a hybrid electric bike.

BEGLEY: Electrons from the sun will power you around the neighborhood.