Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Support NHPR with a year-end gift today for 2 chances to win a trip to Aruba!

California Wildfires Destroy More Than 700 Homes

The ruins of homes that burned in the Valley Fire are seen on September 15, 2015 in Middletown, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)
The ruins of homes that burned in the Valley Fire are seen on September 15, 2015 in Middletown, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Firefighters in Northern California are still battling a dozen wildfires that have displaced 23,000 people and claimed more than 700 homes and hundreds of other structures.

One of the worst fires, the Valley Fire, has killed at least one person and burned hundreds of homes and more than 60,000 acres of land. Three days in, it’s still only about 10 percent contained.

Here & Now’s Peter O’Dowd gets the latest on how the Valley Fire is affecting Lake County, California, from John Jensen, co-founder of the Lake County News.

Interview Highlights: John Jensen

It’s day three now of this fire, how are people holding up?

“Well, the community is pulling together with great resilience. There’s quite a bit of chaos and misinformation out there, but the community is holding up very well and coming together. Neighboring communities have been extremely helpful in stepping up to help out and we are in the middle of a catastrophic tragedy at the moment, but people are really coming together and proving their mettle.”

What is it like to be living through this “catastrophic tragedy”?

“Well in the fire areas, there are multiple homes, hundreds of homes – I believe the last report I saw last night was around 540 – burned and many thousands of residents displaced, up to 9,000 homes actually in jeopardy overall. Some of the pictures that you’re seeing, you know, understandably people are shooting the flames because that’s the most interesting part of it. But the reality is that this fire has weaved its way and been very picky about what it’s burned – burning stretches of homes and leaving others unscathed. So we’re seeing a lot of people evacuated, huge areas evacuated where the homes have not been touched by fire. So that’s the main thing we’re experiencing is this enormous impact of refugees.”

On police escorting people back to their homes to rescue pets or feed livestock.

“Yeah, it’s actually really enormous that the sheriff’s department is – or the S.O. is doing that. They’re being wonderful in all of this and they’ve had to shift gear from evacuating people to bringing people back in to make sure animals are cared for while at the same time combating a new threat, which is looters who are going into the burned areas, stealing from the houses. Yesterday, we heard two reports come over the scanner. They’ve identified individuals casing neighborhoods and breaking into homes and leaving homes wide open. It’s what to expect I suppose.”


  • John Jensen, co-founder of the Lake County News. He tweets @LCNJensen.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.