Nightly News   |  January 17, 2014

California Flames Flare in Low Humidity, High Winds

In Glendora, Calif., it’s been another scorching winter day. Firefighters have a tough battle ahead, but have already managed to contain the blaze by at least 30 percent.

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

>>> now we go out to southern california where fires are still burning and threatening homes outside la. california governor jerry brown has declared a statewide drought emergency now, because of the very same conditions responsible for the red flag fire warnings there this week. nbc's miguel almaguer is on the fire lines again for us tonight in glendora, california. miguel , good evening.

>> reporter: brian, good evening. on another scorching winter day here in southern california , good news. this blaze is at least 30% contained. while five homes have been lost, tonight crews are bracing for another night of the gusty and notorious santa ana winds . this is what the battle looked like for the boots on the ground , cutting a fire line to protect homes. strike teams deployed to snuff out hot spots in tinder dry conditions, with low humidity and high winds .

>> this is unreal. really. haven't seen this in a long time.

>> reporter: summer-like conditions.

>> yes.

>> reporter: the canyons are funnels for the flames, the brush like gasoline. here on the ground it's literally hand-to-hand combat. the heat from these flames is intense. it's chewing through this bone dry hillside. here you've got ground crews trying to keep those flames away from homes just on the other side of this ridge.

>> reporter: and it's just down hill where we found 64-year-old tony, his neighborhood under evacuation orders, but the retiree refuses to leave. you think if the flames come down that ridge you'll be able to save your house with your hose?

>> yeah. i'm very comfortable that i'll be able to.

>> reporter: holdouts are common, even when flames close in on communities, many take a stand. this man, a hose in one hand, a cell phone in the other.

>> in this kind of situation it's best you get in your car and go right now especially when you got the sheriffs with loud speakers telling you to evacuate. it becomes kind of like a race for your life basically at that point.

>> reporter: this is why the scramble to safety can mean life or death. it takes only minutes for homes to explode. alfonso careio was hit with aerial drops. amber chung watched her back yard turn into a carpet of flames, this infrared photo from a command helicopter, shows the intensity of what firefighters are up against.

>> we've got a lot of resources here to get this thing pinned down so we can -- we can get ready for the next one, because there will be a next one.

>> reporter: when the governor declared a drought emergency today, it was no surprise for firefighters here on the ground with nearly 2,000 acres already destroyed, they are hoping weather will turn in their favor. brian?

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