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California Wildfires Continue To Burn As Weather, COVID-19 Complicate Response

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Now we're going to turn to the wildfires that have been raging in California's Bay Area for more than a week after a dry lightning storm ignited the region. And more storms, I have to say, are unfortunately expected tonight. Sara Hossaini from member station KQED reports from an evacuation center in the coastal town of Half Moon Bay.

SARA HOSSAINI, BYLINE: Because of COVID-19, Half Moon Bay High School isn't operating like a typical evacuation center. There are no beds or hot meals. Instead, a steady stream of people approach tents for three-day hotel vouchers, information and supplies.

TINO ROSAS: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Vineyard caretaker Tino Rosas (ph) of nearby La Honda arrives with his partner and their 1-month-old daughter. They fled Thursday when law enforcement came to the neighborhood to order people out. He says he had no idea it was that close.

ROSAS: (Through interpreter) So we started quickly bagging up all the clothes and throwing the most necessary things in the car.

HOSSAINI: Here at the evacuation center, Rosas gets an extension on the room his family has shared since they fled. With both his job and home in limbo, it's a momentary relief.

Ken and Laura Groves (ph), who are staying in a friend's garage, are here for the Internet, which they continually check for updates on their home in Pescadero.

LAURA GROVES: And we've lived there for 26 years. Nothing like this has ever happened before.

HOSSAINI: They're also keeping tabs on beloved local landmarks in the fire's path, such as the nearby Big Basin. It's California's oldest state park, filled with thousand-year-old redwoods.

KEN GROVES: And they live in the timeline of centuries, so we won't get to see them recover. But recover they will unless we, you know, take the rest of the planet with us.

HOSSAINI: Up the coast and inland, the second-largest fire in California history continues to rage. The LNU Lightning Complex is a series of fires set off by a dry thunderstorm last weekend. Together, the wildfires have torched more than 300,000 acres and destroyed hundreds of structures. In the wine country town of Calistoga, firefighters have set up base camp at the Napa County Fairgrounds.

JEFF CHAMBLISS: Anything and everything that you need to basically run a little city, it's here. We even have - I'll show you a laundry service that's over here.

HOSSAINI: Cal Fire spokesman Jeff Chambliss (ph) says resources are thin given the hundreds of active fires in the state right now. They're working with about half of the 5,000 firefighters they'd normally have on a fire this big. Governor Gavin Newsom has said out-of-state help would be coming soon. For NPR News, I'm Sara Hossaini in Half Moon Bay.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEEN DAZE'S "OSKAR'S LULLABY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.