Nightly News   |  August 08, 2013

California’s Silver Fire explodes out of control

California firefighters are battling a raging inferno that has forced thousands to evacuate. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports

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

>>> moving west, a big battle going on in southern california tonight against a wildfire that has blown up out of control with an army of firefighters trying to contain what is now a raging inferno. nbc's miguel almaguer is in banning, california , for us tonight. miguel , good evening.

>> reporter: lester, good evening. i want to give you some perspective of the terrain we're in, what this fire is feeding on. acre and acre of bone- dry brush . take a look at this fuel. see how dry this is? it is the perfect fuel for this fire. it's charred across more than 11,000 acres, and it's growing larger every minute.

>> if we can get some air support , anything at all will help.

>> reporter: from the air, a moving monster. the so-called silver fire exploding out of control at a, quote, critical rate.

>> several structures involved.

>> reporter: in less than 24 hours , this inferno quadrupled in size. 16 square miles up in smoke.

>> it hit here very fast. that wind started pushing that fire up over the ridge lines and before they knew, it was upon the community.

>> reporter: this is erratic and aggressive fire behavior, even for seasoned california firefighters.

>> i'd like to request five strike teams of crews.

>> reporter: at least 15 structures destroyed.

>> mandatory evacuations. you need to evacuate immediately.

>> reporter: nearly 2,000 people had only minutes to flee the flames.

>> i got here and the house was already half burned.

>> reporter: dave clark watched his home burn to the ground.

>> i knew where a bag of legal documents were so i ran in and grabbed them and ran out.

>> reporter: these tinderbox conditions are always dangerous and can be deadly. four firefighters are injured. one neighbor severely burned. for some, there was no time to escape the flames. sheriff's deputies were evacuating locals when the fire tore through here. they rode out the firestorm and, luckily, survived. a small blaze when it began wednesday, overnight the silver fire became a blow torch . structure after structure devoured during the time when fire typically lays down.

>> the wind we got last night was cool, and it even had some moisture in it but it was still 35 miles an hour and continued to push that fire.

>> reporter: with an army of nearly 1,000 on the ground and a steady air attack , crews are making progress. but tonight, if the winds return, this fire could be poised to make another dangerous run. wind speeds are expected to gust at around 20 miles an hour tonight. some 500 homes remain threatened. the good news, this blaze is 10% contained. that number rising. lester?

>> miguel almaguer in california , thanks.