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Wildfires North Of LA Gain Intensity


A wildfire north of Los Angeles is gaining intensity as it moves through populated areas in the northern San Fernando Valley. Jacob Margolis with member station KPCC is with us this morning. He's at a first-responder staging area at Hansen Dam in LA County, and he's on his cellphone. Jacob, thanks for taking a few minutes, and just tell me what you're seeing there.

JACOB MARGOLIS, BYLINE: Yeah, it's just a mess of firetrucks, U.S. Forest Service people, LAPD - everyone is gathering. There are bulldozers and trailers. And, really, everyone's just trying to coordinate and figure out how to tackle these fires, especially before they creep into the neighborhood. And they've been doing that all night. They've been flying helicopters over my house - kept getting woken up by them. They're pulling water from a nearby lake area. And the hope is that it doesn't kind of creep into all these very heavily populated areas just north of, you know, where I live.

GREENE: Wow. So I mean, if you don't mind talking about your own story, where do you live, and is your family OK?

ARGOLIS: Yeah. I live about probably a mile or two from the fire line and the evacuation zone. And I'm sending my family - my wife is skipping work, and we're sending them north, hopefully past the other fire that has broken out and maybe have a nice day at the beach in a not smoky area. But there are fires all over California right now, so it's kind of crazy.

GREENE: It's kind of like, here we go again, after what a lot of people in the state went through last year, right?

ARGOLIS: It's not the first time. It's not going to be the last. I mean, just - I remember recently driving - it feels like yesterday - driving down the highway, embers flying over my car, trying to get home. I mean, it is not an uncommon sight. And that is really sad.

GREENE: You said creeping into neighborhoods. The fire that we're talking about that you're close to and watching people respond to, I mean, tell me more about that. How vulnerable are some of these populated areas?

ARGOLIS: Yeah, I mean, you have to - what it - think of, like, the sprawl of the typical kind of Valley - your typical kind of Valley LA idea, all that sprawl. Well, that sprawl has now kind of spread up into these mountainous areas - beautiful homes up there, brand-new developments - and there's brush everywhere. I mean, people live up there for a reason - because it's good-looking - but at the same time, it's right at the urban wildland interface. And so these houses' new construction are very vulnerable. And they're not always necessarily built to handle wildfires.

And that's been a major debate we've been having in California - is prepping developments, prepping individual homes. And I don't know how often people actually end up doing that. I'll talk to some firefighters today and see what they're seeing up there.

GREENE: I just remember - and I know Paradise, Calif., was such a special and awful case. But it just spread so quickly through one community. Is that memory still there? I mean, is this the kind of fire and the kind of conditions where a fire could just get completely out of control and move very quickly without much notice?

ARGOLIS: I mean, I was watching it last night kind of waiting for it to do that. I packed a bag up while my wife was sleeping just in case because you never know. And the answer is yes. But we have a number of fires like the Thomas Fire - ad nauseum, we're always worried about and thinking about. And it's kind of rough. It's kind of rough.

GREENE: All right. Reporting this morning on firefighters - fires breaking out yet again in California. And we'll be following that story throughout the day. Jacob Margolis with member station KPCC. We'll be thinking about you and your family. Thanks a lot.

ARGOLIS: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Jacob Margolis
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