(From Dan Fleschner, TODAY Producer)
We've been bringing you live coverage of the wildfires from all over Southern California this morning. I've been with Matt and about a dozen others in Rancho Bernardo (San Diego County), where several neighborhoods have been particularly hard hit. Homes have been burned to the ground, and soot and debris floats through the air.
It's strange enough driving around a silent neighborhood at 2 a.m., which is when we headed out to do our live shot. But it's even more eerie when you know that it's not quiet because everyone's asleep -- it's quiet because there's nobody there. Here in Rancho Bernardo, everyone has been evacuated, leaving only police and the odd news crew to dot the roadways. In many cases, these fires have given the term "ghost town" a new meaning.
As we rolled into one of the housing developments here, we passed a community center that had a sign out front: "CAKEBAKERS NEEDED -- CALL SHERRY." Sadly, that sign was posted in happier times. Now, the needs of this community are more basic. The scattered people of this town are separated from their lives, wondering if their homes and possessions still exist.
What's most striking about the damage here is the randomness of it. Walking down the street here, you'll see a house completely intact, right next to the charred remains of what was once someone's home. A gust of wind in one direction -- a fickle twist of fate -- could mean the difference between a fortunate escape and total disaster.
For people like Jim and Carol Wall, whom Matt interviewed this morning (video), all is lost except each other. They'll celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary next week, which, I'm sure, will be a bittersweet occasion. But their resolve to put their lives back together is inspiring, as is the courageous work of the firefighters from around California and other western states, who are trying to control the uncontrollable.