California’s Holy Fire burns 18,000 acres south of Los Angeles

LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. — Smoke from California’s wildfires has drifted as far as New England, more than 3,000 miles away. The major concern Friday night was the state’s Holy Fire, which has burned 18,000 acres south of Los Angeles.

CBS News spent the past two days driving around Lake Elsinore, where it was a common sight to see firefighters with their hoses trained on flames that were making their way dangerously close to homes.

A last desperate stand saved nearly all the homes in one neighborhood — a testament to those on the front lines.

“Why do you do this?” CBS News asked Eric Brue of Cal Fire.

“I don’t know, it’s something you enjoy doing and you know you can make a difference,” said Brue.

CBS News saw it first hand. Flames were reaching into the yard of P.J. Rodriguez’ home. There was thick smoke and embers were flying all around, but his house was saved.

“I had all the faith in these guys and trust, and they did what they’re supposed to do,” said Rodriguez.

Even with more than a thousand firefighters battling the flames, some homeowners refused to evacuate.

Dan Pritchett watched his mobile home burn down.

“Do you feel lucky being alive today, seeing what your home was reduced to?” CBS News asked.

“I do. I feel very lucky, and that’s just a house,” said Pritchett.

Conditions are still extreme. Several times it has roared back to life and could yet again. Numerous hotspots remain.  

It seems as soon as one fire is put out, another one starts right back up. 

One fire was being carried by the wind over a highway and up into a mountain. The area is so bone dry that firefighters worry it could explode like a powder keg.

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