Getting to the fire line isn't easy.
Wednesday, I was assigned to the Santiago Canyon Fire, a 22,000 acre wildfire that's been threatening 3,000 homes in Orange County. What made this one particularly shocking is authorities say it was set by one or more arsonists.
First, we have to figure out how to get close. Producer Katherine Wojtecki, photographer Tim Hart and I were chugging along with a GPS systems in our vehicles. But that didn't help much. Lots of roads were blocked, and the GPS could easily send us to a dead end.
So, we looked at the sky, and headed toward a huge plume of black smoke. A sheriff's deputy stopped us, and told us to turn around, because the FBI was investigating down the road. (Later, we learned that in two outdoor locations, authorities determined the fire had been deliberately set.)
Twists and turns. Checkpoints. The clock was ticking. I had to crank out a live shot soon and was worried we'd never figure out how to direct the satellite truck to our location. We were trying to find a spot with a good escape route, but where we would also be close enough to see the action.
Then, on a remote hilltop, we found the view we were looking for. We could see a house about a half-mile away, with flames all around it. Firefighters were right next to the danger. Helicopters came in every few minutes to dump water on the huge hotspot. In this section of the Santiago Canyon fire, there were about 100 firefighters trying to save 25 homes from being destroyed.
We interviewed a resident named Marty Weel, who broke into tears on camera. He was deeply thankful firefighters saved his house. We fed tape. Everything made air on time. I felt we improvised well.
But my emotions moved to incredulity. How could it be that someone set this fire? It's crazy. So many resources are being used to fix an enormous amount of damage. It just showed, when you struggle to get to one of these fires, what you end up finding can be both compelling and tragic.
-- By Keith Oppenheim, CNN Correspondent