Nightly News   |  August 27, 2013

Attacking the Rim Fire from above

NBC’s Miguel Almaguer provides a firsthand look at how firefighters are dropping flame retardant over the so-called Rim Fire in Yosemite.  Crews aren’t able to access much of the terrain, making it all the more important to contain the fire via plane.

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

>>> to the massive air and ground war in the west against one of the largest wildfires in the history of california . continuing to explode out of control tonight. nbc's miguel alma gaier spent much of the day in a helicopter high above that battle gaining a unique perspective in just how highly coordinated this firefight is.

>> we're about 15 miles away from the heart of the fire. we're down wind, so the smoke is socking in the airport, we're not able to leave the airport it's too dangerous to fly. as soon as we find a pocket of strong winds, and smoke, we'll take off.

>> we're going to take off, hopefully we can make it up before the smoke comes back into the airport.

>> looks good to go, we're safe.

>> this fire is roughly 230 square miles bigger than the size of the city of chicago . and all along these ridges we can see fires. there's no doubt this fire is growing, it's certainly quickly on the move. you can see from the fuel load down here, there's just hundreds of thousands of acres that can still burn.

>> we're going to make our way down to the south side . it looks like everything is blown up to the north.

>> the fire has been burning for a week and a half. there's no doubt this fire could burn for weeks longer. crews may not be able to accept so much of this terrain down there, it's very rugged, very rocky below. from the air here, you get that perspective. you understand why they can't drop firefighters into the burn zone. if they put cruise on the ground, there's nowhere they would be able to run. there are no escape routes. on this flank of the fire, they simply have to attack it from the air. the d.c. 10 is one of the biggest assets crews have on the ground. this plane can drop nearly 12,000 gallens of fire retard end. you can see how hot this fire is burning. behind all of this smoke and ash in the air, can you see there are hotspots, there are flames towering hundreds of feet into the air. the blaze is still very active. still burning very quickly, and, of course, very, very dangerous. 10,000 feet above the rim fire, miguel almaguer.