Nightly News   |  August 21, 2013

Hotshot crew’s blitz to battle the blaze

Nearly 2000 firefighters are tackling the blaze in Idaho, which is threatening thousands of homes. NBC News embedded with the Pike Hot Shot crew from Monument, Colo., to get a rare look at how they’re making progress. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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>>> tonight, there are more than 50 massive fires burning out of control across the country, including this new fire getting dangerously close to yosemite national park , closing roads and forcing evacuations. tonight nbc news has been granted rare access to the fight against the worst fire of them all, the one burning in idaho. nbc 's miguel almaguer has our report.

>> reporter: all right. here we go. after a safety briefing, we were airborne. nbc news given a rare look over the burn zone, 106,000 acres, an area the size of denver. our pilot, michael leary , a veteran flying this cascade range . the pilots are well trained, but they have to contend with blinding smoke and shifting winds. even at 8,000 feet above the beaver creek fire, you can feel the heat, smell the smoke, but it's the size of this fire. it's endless.

>> that's the toughest part for pilots. the toughest part is just the visible, seeing where you're going and avoiding other aircraft.

>> reporter: the firefight from above is an aerial ballet of helicopters and big-swing plane, crisscrossing the skies, shoveling loads of water and retardant. they're making progress. the chief of operations.

>> the aircraft is really excellent to slow down fire bands, but the ultimate goal is we have to get boots on the ground , firefighters there to secure the fire line.

>> reporter: nearly 2,000 firefighters are battling this blaze. our nbc news team embedded with the pike hot shot crew from mon colorado. the e elite unit of 22 will sleep, eat, and breathe fire for two weeks as they carve containment lines around the blaze in concert with helicopters dropping 2,000 gallons of water.

>> going to keep dropping water on us so we get it knocked down. once he gets it knocked down, we'll get down there and start to anchor the flight attendant.

>> reporter: from above you can see the blaze still making runs. there's plenty of dry fuel to feed it.

>> reporter: but progress is being made every day. a firefight like we rarely have seen it before. miguel almaguer, nbc news, over the beaver creek fire.