Nightly News   |  May 03, 2013

Fires threaten thousands of California homes

Nearly 1,000 firefighters are using a combination of ground teams and air attacks to keep wildfires from destroying homes in Southern California. Miguel Almaguer reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening. again tonight, fires are burning right alongside commuters heading home from work in southern california while others are heading home to check on their homes themselves. the weather is doing no favors for this awful and early start of fire season. this isn't supposed to happen in may. the aggressive santa ana winds that blow in the opposite direction of our weather -- to the west and out over the water bringing heat-fuelled fires barrelling down the dry hillsides. today the major fires got bigger as conditions worsened. nbc's miguel almaguer starts us off from point mugu , not far from the naval air station there. miguel , good evening.

>> reporter: brian, geechblgt -- good evening. we are yards away from the pacific ocean . you can hear the choppers overhead scooping water out of the pacific and dumping it on the fire. the blaze is quick-moving, some 10,000 acres have been charred containment is only at 10%. take a look at the pictures taken a short time ago. 50 miles away from where we are standing in glendale outside of los angeles , a major freeway has been shut down because of another fire. crews will have their hands full tonight. as firefighters take a stand where they can to protect homes, they allow the blaze to burn where there is no immediate threat. so far, a winning strategy.

>> that is getting really dangerously close to those folks.

>> reporter: the so-called springs fire has scorched 15,000 square miles . this inferno is moving fast.

>> it's been pretty scary.

>> reporter: natasha fraser was evacuated as the fire ved in on the point mugu naval station .

>> i don't think it's hit me really like survival mode, trying to get everything.

>> back to on shore now.

>> reporter: with nearly 1,000 firefighters on the ground, crews have stopped flames from reaching large subdivisions. using a steady combination of ground teams and airttacks, only 15 homes have been damaged. shifting winds remain the biggest threat. on the front lines the conditions here are extreme. you can hear this blaze just chewing through bone dry brush . firefighters hope it burns itself out.

>> it feels sometimes like you are always behind, you know, just about the time you get caught up the fire is outflanking you, getting ahead of you. that's always a challenge.

>> reporter: overnight, fire spread from the foothills all the way to the pacific coast .

>> it looks like an atom bomb has gone off.

>> reporter: so much smoke billowing into the air, the plume visible from space. people were advised to stay inside.

>> wow, this thing is a fire.

>> reporter: all day the unfolding drama was captured on cell phones and cameras.

>> we are looking at fire just at the trees right behind these houses now.

>> reporter: the firefight is far from over as crews dig in for another long night. with these firefighting choppers filling buckets with ocean water to beat back the flames here, additional firefighters have been called in across the region. there is good news on the weather front . we are expecting cooler temperatures, possibly even rain this weekend. brian, firefighters need all the help they can get here.

>> miguel almaguer starting us off from point mugu , california, on the pacific coast . miguel , thanks.