John is currently in California reporting for AC360’s special edition coverage of the SOCAL fires. From the live CNN.com video stream, here are a some video caps of John reporting live just a few minutes before 8:00 pm CST:
John is in Rancho Bernardo and he spoke with Anderson Cooper earlier this evening. Here is what he reported on, about what he heard and saw around him.
“We’re standing amid the devastation of one of those homes, some families allowed back in today to see whether their house was destroyed, whether it was still standing.
But this neighborhood, Rancho Bernardo, as you noted, still under permanent evacuation for now, because of what fire officials are worried about. If you look at the wreckage here of this home, the metal, this is a piano frame. It is still hot to the touch. Down below, you can hear and smell the embers still burning.
So, families were allowed in briefly today, some lucky, some not. Fire crews were here most of the day, wetting down the devastation of the houses that were destroyed. But you can see and feel the smoke still coming up in this, the heat getting hotter as we’re here. The metal is cracking, still very hot to the touch. They’re also worried about this. They’re worried, again, the winds could shift, those devastating winds. There is a small fire just over the hill this way, to my right. They’re worried, if the winds change, it could come back through this neighborhood as well.
And, if you look further up to the north, you can see very thick smoke of a major fire they’re still dealing with in the north. And, as we stand here in this neighborhood, surveying the destruction, you see helicopters coming in behind us, filling up on their missions, heading off to the hills to the north, where the fire still rages.”
Anderson then asked John how many homes in that area where destroyed.
“It is hard to count. And we’re still counting in the hours we have been here. But, where I’m standing, one, two, three, four this way, and then a house with a little smoke damage on the side, but unscathed. You look this way, two more homes destroyed, then three or four homes that escaped virtually untouched, perhaps some smoke damage.And you just see, going through the yards, we’re seeing a hot tub behind this house simply melted down to the ground, lawn furniture destroyed. The hill, up into the hill, is scarred. All of the vegetation around here is scarred. And, again, in the hours we have been here, as the evening comes on — and the fire crews have been gone now for a few hours — more and more smoke is rising up, as, once again, there’s still quite a bit of heat, low fires burning under the ground. They believe they have done as well as they can in this neighborhood for now.
And they have shifted, the fire department, to neighborhoods where there are still more active fires burning, but, Anderson, quite a bit of devastation here, and the families told they don’t know when they will be able to come back, because they are worried the fires could come back or blow in again.”
Anderson next wanted to know, should the fires come back, is there anything left to burn? John replied,
“There are plenty more homes up behind me. I can count eight, nine, 10 homes just in this small subdivision up on the hill behind me, vulnerable, because the trees up there were untouched. So, if, again, the winds shift and you have embers coming in, and they get into the trees, that hill escaped virtually unscathed directly across from me, more up the hill this way. The devastation is much more down here. But we are in the worst end of the subdivision.
As you drive in, many of the homes up there untouched. But, again, were the fire to come back, it is a rolling hill, and the winds get blowing, as you have seen, throughout Southern California the past few days. There are many more homes here, which is why this neighborhood is off limits. And many families, Anderson, for hours have been lined up at a police roadblock trying to get in just to get a quick glimpse, police telling them only if they need medication, only if they need vital documents. They get an escort in. Then they’re quickly asked to leave, because the police still worry this neighborhood’s not yet safe.”
We hope that John, his producers and camera crew all stay safe as well.