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Trump Threatens Government Shutdown over Border Wall; Over 700 Immigrant Kids Haven't Been Reunited With Their Parents; Mugabe Seems to Back Opposition on Eve of Historic Vote; U.K. Report Calls for Greater Regulation of Social Media. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired July 30, 2018 - 00:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: A wildfire rips through parts of Northern California beating up summer heat and high winds. We'll talk to a firefighter.

Ahead of the U.S. midterm elections, Donald Trump reprises a familiar theme, build a border wall. He says now he's willing to shut down the government for it.

Plus, I cannot vote for those who tormented me, former Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, breaks his silence ahead of the country's first election since his ouster.

Live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier. It's great to have you with us.

Now firefighters are hoping they have now reached a turning point in their fight to contain a massive wildfire in Northern California. In just a week, the so-called Carr fire has burned more than 36,000 hectares. For the moment, it is only 5 percent contained.

At least six people have died so far. Several others are missing. Meanwhile, a second firefighter has died battling the Ferguson fire near Yosemite National Park. That blazed torching 22,000 hectares. Fortunately, that one is 30 percent contained right now. Now there are just two of the 17 fires burning up and down California.

Our Dan Simon has the latest from one of the worst hit neighborhoods.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the first time we are now beginning to hear fire officials expressed optimism about the overall effort. They've indicated that the containment number is going to go up. That means that the resources that they've put into this fire now seemed to be working.

They have about 3,500 firefighters on the frontlines and obviously, a lot of aircraft dumping water on the hot spots. In the meantime, here in the Lake Redding Estates Subdivision and you can see this is one of the homes that has been destroyed. You can see this is two-car garage. You see the two vehicles right here and underscore the random nature of it all, you can see next door, you see this house that is perfectly intact.

You have 38,000 people that are under an evacuation order. You have these people who are very restless. Obviously, they want to try to get back into their homes and people who, of course, have homes to get back into.

You can't get a hotel in the area. It's just impossible and some of the evacuation shelters have also reach maximum capacity. But now that this containment number seems to be going up hopefully it means that the fire crews will soon have this place under control.

VANIER: With me now is Brian Rice, the president of California Professional Firefighters. Brian, what makes the Carr fire in particular so difficult to contain?

BRIAN RICE, PRESIDENT, CALIFORNIA PROFESSIONAL FIREFIGHTERS: Cyril, it's intermixed right on the border at the city of Redding, a community of about 100,000. You're talking about the grass, tallgrass, lot of timber degree and then timber also.

Then the other piece of it is the weather has very much been against firefighters. We're starting to see a little bit of change, but the daytime temperatures have exceeded 105 degrees and an account past couple of days have actually been over at about 110.

The fuel moistures are incredibly dry single-digit humidity and all of that is a very explosive combination for the firefighters that are on the line tonight.

VANIER: Brian, is it easier for you to fight the fire at night? That is my understanding.

RICE: Yes, it is. In fact, today, I'm at Carr fire. We're getting a little bit relief from the weather. The winds aren't quite as high as they were. We are seeing the temperatures drop and what that's going to lead to is what we would say the fire is going to lay down a little bit.

Meaning the firefighters can a far more aggressive direct attack and that has been the strategy change over the last 24 or 36 hours that they are really shifting into a posture of an offensive fire attack instead of being completely defensive and trying to save lives (inaudible).

VANIER: If anything, to get the impression if you look at this year and last summer as well that these fires are getting worse. They are worse now than they used to be. Is that fair? Are you getting the same impression?

RICE: I would say that every firefighter in California would probably agree with that. You know, we are in the midst of a long-term drought. Some of these areas haven't burned in, you know, up to a decade. And you know, just this year, we have firefighters on the fire line on Christmas. In my 30-year career, this is the first time I can say that the fire season has extended from 2017 to 2018. It's been a very active.

[00:05:13] VANIER: So, do firefighters need more resources than in light of this, in light of this list harsher fire environments?

RICE: I mean, the easy answer, Cyril, is yes. Right now, in the state of California, our fire departments both our state fire department and our local government fire departments were stretched very, very thin.

Many departments have not recover their staffing strength that they had prior to the great recession, though, we are seeing some staffing shortages that way and then the explosive fire behavior at 30 days. They are all contributors to it.

VANIER: All right. Brian Rice, thank you so much for joining us on the show today. Thanks.

RICE: You're welcome. Goodnight.

VANIER: Meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri has been looking into this. You heard Brian there. The first thing the firefighters look at is the weather to see if they're going to get any help or on the contrary they're actually battling the elements. What information do you have?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We always say mother nature has the upper hand on these. We ignited these. This is manmade as the far the vehicle blowing over to the side of the road, but once it gets ignited, the conditions in place, the gusty winds are in place.

Unfortunately to exacerbate the problems. So, we look at this carefully. We look at the landscape because, Cyril, you can look at a weather pattern in a broad sense and see it's calm, hot, dry, but the weather pattern locally on the ground around these canyons, mountains, and valleys really creates its own environment.

So, we'll break this down for you because on a larger perspective you can see the drought really corresponds. That's what's been happening. Where the largest and most active claims are across the western U.S. almost 100 of them.

But, of course, the concentration on Northern California, large ones across this region have been of concern. But to dive in and look at the topography, the lay of the land here, and as you look at this, this is the thermal signature of all the active fires across this region.

And of course, the perspective is as such and you see the mountainsides, you see the fires have kind of encompass the mountainside here. That really has a lot to do with how things work when it comes to fires.

In fact, the fire speed tends to double with each 10-degree slope added. So, if you got a 20-degree, 20 kilometer per hour winds, you have the fire traveling as such, but increased that 20-degree slope up the 30, your fire speed doubles up to 40 kilometers per hour.

So, this is kind of why it makes this region of California so difficult for wildfires to be contained because of the lay of the land, landscape there, and of course, the weather pattern doesn't help.

We know (inaudible) are in the 40s and are expected to remain that way in the next couple of days. The winds are going to locally dusted because extreme heat at the surface level creates winds there and of course, wind, air, rise the cool and if it does, the valleys really kick up tremendous powerful winds there.

The drought remains moderate. Unfortunately, no rain in the forecast and when you take a look at the numbers over the next several days, the average temperature for this time of year 37 degrees Celsius, about 100 Fahrenheit.

We are well above that the next several days with a zero percent chance of any rain here. So, this is really concerning. You notice at least some improvement they're going towards Wednesday.

We see a little drop in the temperatures. That will help just a little bit, but Cyril, made a really incredible point there when it comes to this seem like it's increasing. Well, numbers really back it up here when you take a look at the average number of large wildfires per year and going in over a decade from the 80s, the 90s, to the 2000s.

Significant increase for those larger fires every single decade moving for the last three decades. So, I did not know those numbers.

VANIER: I said I've got to bring that up. Pedram, thank very much.

For the moment at least six people killed, so many who are missing that the rescuers are looking for and the firefighters themselves are among those who've actually paid tribute -- lost their lives in this fire. So, fingers crossed that they'll get some relief. Thank you very much, Pedram.


VANIER: Families in Greece are trying to rebuild after the wildfire we were telling you about last week in that country, which killed more than 80 people and devastated entire villages.


VANIER: This here was shot by a resident as the flames were coming in. He only realized that he was trapped outside his house when the wind slammed his door shut. He could feel the heat on his head, he said. So, he grabbed the bucket of water and he doused himself. The flames were so intense that he was dry again in seconds. The man was eventually able to call someone in the house and then get to safety. As we've been reporting, many others fled into the sea to escape the flames. One woman said that she spent more than two hours in the water with dozens of other people before they were rescued.

This is what it looked like. The sea was one of the only escape routes because the roads were packed with cars from the people also trying to flee. Last week, we asked what started this fire while authorities are still investigating the cause, but they say that evidence does point to arson at this stage.

[00:10:03] Now Donald Trump wraps up a weekend of golf with a round of Twitter attacks. We'll have the latest accusation against the special counsel when we come back.


VANIER: U.S. President Donald Trump used his favorite medium to attack one of his favorite targets. In a series of tweets, the president accused Special Counsel Robert Mueller of having numerous conflicts of interest.