Nightly News   |  July 17, 2013

California wildfire burns out of control

The “Mountain fire” kicked up Monday and is growing in size, threatening nearby communities as it churns through mountainous terrain. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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>>> as we swing out west tonight, extreme heat is adding to the fuel for a large and growing wildfire in southern california . outside palm springs , thousands of firefighters are fighting this one in the heat. nbc's miguel almaguer is there for us tonight. miguel , good evening.

>> reporter: brian, good evening that billowing smoke behind me is a clear indication that this blaze is on the move. you may be able to hear those overhead choppers that are dropping water on this blaze. they are throwing every resource possible at it. while most nearby communities safe for now, this fire remains a significant threat. this is as close as we can get to southern california 's so-called mountain fire, exploding across 22 square miles of mostly wild land, at least half a dozen homes destroyed by the fast-moving inferno.

>> everything i worked for all my life is probably up in flames.

>> reporter: with more than 2,000 firefighters on the ground, this is the nation's top priority fire. these parched mountains haven't burned in decades. much of this renalson a tinderbox.

>> we expect to have a very difficult, long fire season. the vegetation is as dry as it normally is at the end of the season.

>> reporter: tonight, 17 major wildfires are burning in seven western states . today, scientists meeting in washington said climate change plays a factor in what's become a deadly and historic fire season.

>> drier weather, longer droughts and hotter temperatures that created the situation where we lost the firefighters in arizona.

>> reporter: yesterday, kevin wochek, one of the 19 firefighters killed in arizona, was laid to rest. today, many who attended his funeral are back on the front lines. the blaze forced 130 children with special needs to evacuate camp ronald mcdonald . and while flames closed in on time springs ranch, firefighters took a stand at town hall and won. but this firefight isn't over yet that plume of smoke is dropping ash on cities miles away . air quality is an issue across this region. the good news tonight, this fire is already 10% contained. brian?

>> miguel almaguer in southern california for us tonight. miguel , thanks.