Nightly News   |  July 18, 2013

Heat adds to wildfire’s fuel

Evacuations are underway as a wall of fire approaches the town of Idyllwild, Calif. The blaze is so large it can be seen from space. Six miles away from the fire, in Palm Springs, it was raining ash, leaving fine particles in the air. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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>>> now to where it turns serious again today, extreme heat adding to the fuel for this big and growing wildfire outside palm springs , california. and tonight, evacuations are under way as this fire is now burning toward a highly populated community that has its own sad history with wildfire. that's where the crews are digging in. that's where we find nbc's miguel almaguer tonight. miguel , good evening.

>> reporter: brian, good evening. an eerie seen here in idyllwild , usually bustling with tourists and locals this time of year but today it looks much more like a ghost town , this as firefighters prepare for the worst. on the frontlines today, a race against time to protect the resort town of idyllwild . crews carving a fire break between 2200 homes and a wall of fire that's on the move.

>> this morning watching what was going on and it didn't look good.

>> reporter: ron korman is among the 6,000 ordered to evacuate. he round up his horses and packed what he could from his dream home, a cabin he built with his own hands.

>> if we were to get an easterly wind, we would be toast down here.

>> reporter: wind is the biggest fear today. the so-called mountain fire is blowing in multiple directions, feeding on bone-dry brush this 35-square-mile monster can be seen from space. there are smoke advisories for unhealthy air. six miles away in palm springs , it was raining ash.

>> it is very high level of fine particulate in the air and this is very serious for people with respiratory complications.

>> reporter: from the air, 17 helicopters continue to pound this remote fire. while on the ground, now 3,000 fire personnel.

>> we are just checking everything out.

>> reporter: going door to door to clear out those who wanted to stay behind. this is the last line of defense for firefighters, with flames in that direction and homes in that direction, this fire break will run for miles.

>> we are very concerned. we don't want to lose the sound. everywhere that we protect here, we don't want to lose any of it.

>> reporter: this community knows fire and heartbreak well. in 2006 , five firefighters lost their lives fighting the blaze that threatened the town. tonight, crews are once again working to protect the community of idyllwild and its residents. making matters worse for firefighters here on the ground, they are battling this blaze in near triple-digit heat. the good news, the fire from this town, brian is about two miles away .

>> miguel almaguer, idyllwild , california, tonight. miguel , thanks.