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The 'New Normal:' California Firefighters Face Record-Setting Wildfire Season

The 'New Normal:' California Firefighters Face Record-Setting Wildfire Season Read Transcript


- California is fighting firesacross the state right now

and there's no end in sight.

Already this year, wildfireshave scorched the state

in both wild lands and neighborhoods.

Given the hot and dry conditions,

this year's fires could easilysurpass last year's record

of 1.3 million acres.

- This is not new, this is the normal.

We don't see it ending anytime soon.

- Still, the state hopes to gain control

by placing fire camps nearthe biggest outbreaks.

These many cities house anddeploy firefighters each day.

There's over 4,000 firefighters fighting

the Carr fire here.

Most are working 24 hour shifts

and they don't know whenthey'll be going home.

- We're thinking at least for 14 days,

but we could get extendedanother seven on top of that.

- [Heather] As these firefighterssave lives and property,

they try to keep themselvesout of harms way.

In recent weeks, six have diedfighting California fires.

- [Interviewer] Whatmotivates you to do this?

'Cause this is hard work.

- Just a duty to serve andwanting to make a difference.

- We've had a lot of firesdown in southern California

and I've seen the devastationright in our own backyard

and we appreciate when people come up.

So we're trying to return the favor.

- [Heather] At six AM,these firefighters line up

for breakfast, followed bya briefing that highlights

the weather, strategy,and the constant reminder

to stay safe.

Then, they're on their wayfor a minimum of 24 hours.

- With the sieges thatwe've seen, some have been

going up to 72, 96 hours on the line

just because of resources.

- [Heather] If that seems excessive,

firefighters say it'sactually very practical.

- The operation has to be 24 hours because

once you in brief somebody,that plan has been made

for 24 hours.

Those people have beenbriefed on that plan

that they physically have in their hand

and they're gonna carry out that plan.

If we were to switch, let'ssay a regular eight hour shift,

we would have to gothrough that whole cycle

and minutes meaneverything in a fire fight.

- [Heather] So does the weather.

Just as it appears they'refinally gaining control,

firefighters often see thatprogress quickly disappear.

- Just one simple changein the wind or something,

they'll jump ourcontainment lines and then,

it's back off to the racesand it could ya know,

add another week or two.

- [Heather] These firefightersalso know they're likely

facing another recordbreaking fire year in 2018.

- It's been definitely muchmore volatile conditions

with the dryness and stuff,the lack of rains we had

all through California.

Fire seems like it'sbeen much more aggressive

than it has in the past.

- [Heather] There's noone culprit responsible

for these fires.

They're fueled by drought, heat,

dead trees, and constructionin wild land areas.

Most Californians realizethe extreme threat.

If they don't knowsomeone directly affected,

they've likely breathed in the smoky air

that travels far from the fire locations.

The state will spend closeto two billion dollars

just to fight fires this year.

- Hey! Backyard's on fire!

- [Heather] Plus whatever ittakes to repair everything

from utility lines toburned out guard rails.

Thousands of homes andbusinesses must be rebuilt

and many Californians willeither pay higher insurance rates

or be dropped because of the fire risk.

Meanwhile, tough months are still ahead.

Forecasters say the windtraditionally increases

in the first part of Autumn.

But if signs like theseare any indication,

Californians have developeda deep appreciation

for those willing to sacrifice it all.

- It really builds em up.

It's almost like a recoveryprocess for first responders

to know that the community is out there

and they support what they're doing.

- [Heather] Reportingin northern California,

Heather Sells, CBN News.

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