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tv   Hardball With Chris Matthews  MSNBC  July 17, 2015 4:00pm-5:01pm PDT

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and stronger steps. we can't rest until we can all breathe in a nation that has equal protection under the law. we owe that to all involved. thanks for watching. i'm al sharpton. have a great weekend. "hardball" starts right now. the search for a motive in the chattanooga attacks. this is "hardball." good evening. i'm steve kornacki in for chris matthews. we're learning new details about yesterday's shooting at two military facilities in chattanooga, tennessee, and the gunman behind them. according to federal investigators, the attack is being looked at as an act of terrorism. mohammad youssuf abdulazeez was armed with two rifles and one
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handgun. a law enforcement official tells nbc news that one of those was an ak-47 assault type rifle. authorities have still not identified a motive and the shooter has not yet been linked to isis or any other terror group. sources to nbc news that so far nothing has turned up on his electronic devices, no suicide video or manifesto. they're looking into his recent travel overseas. last year he flew to jordan where his family is from. he didn't return to the united states for seven months. today we learn the identifies of his victims, gunnery sergeant thomas sullivan staff sergeant david wyatt served one tour in afghanistan and two in iraq. he's from north carolina. sergeant carson holmqvist of wisconsin served two tours in afghanistan and lance corporal skip wells joined in february of 2014 and he's from cobb county georgia. for more from chattanooga, i'm
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joined by nbc's sara dallas. what's is latest you're learning on the scene there? >> reporter: well good evening, steve. authorities have been working around the clock ever since this shooter opened fire spraying 25 bullets into the storefront. now what we've learned today is that he had at least three guns. according to a law enforcement official one of them was an ak-47 type assault rifle, one was a .12 gauge shotgun and one was a .9 millimeter pistol. the shooter appeared to be wearing a load-bearing vest that he stocked with extra ammunition. he purchased one of the guns from a dealer one from a private individual. unsure about how he obtained that third firearm. according to the fbi, it appears that the shooter was killed by chattanooga police and did not
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take his own life. those police officers were praised by the police chief this afternoon who says officers actually dragged one of their wounded colleagues out of the line of fire and into safety. he called them heroes. he described yesterday as the saddest and yet the proudest day of his career. that wounded officer is said to be in high spirits, although steve, we have been told he is in a lot of pain right now. back to you. >> sarah dallof on the ground in chattanooga. we're joined by pete williams. mohammad youssuf abdulazeez. what do we know about him right now? >> authorities are trying to figure out still what the motive was, why he did this. they say they don't know yet. all his electronics are up here in the fbi leap in quantico where they can see what they can find from there. they're also looking at his travel. he's been to jordan several times.
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he started traveling there when he was in high school. he took trips that ranged between a couple of weeks to a couple of months sometimes traveling with his father. one of the most interesting trips to the fbi is the trip he took last year the most recent one, which was to jordan for about seven months six to seven months. they want to know whether while he was there he went to any other middle eastern countries. he had two passports, an american passport because he was a u.s. naturalized edd citizen and also a jordanian passport and he could have used that to cover his tracks. they don't know if he did, but they're asking our foreign intelligence service partners to help them figure out whether he did travel outside of jordan and where he went in jordan. these are all questions that are unanswered at this point. they really don't know what the motive was and they hope to know in the next day or so if they can get anything out of the electronic devices, but so far
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nothing has come forth to indicate what it might be. >> pete there have been these widely circulated blog posts. i guess one maybe from a few days before this happened where possibly, apparently maybe the shooter is talking about life is short, we need to submit to allah. what do you know about the authenticity of those blog posts? i imagine that's getting a lot of scrutiny here. >> that along with anything else they can find that he may have written. that one was written, that last blog post was july 13th three days before the shooting. so they want to know what exactly -- there's two ways to read that. one is that it seems to be just the expressions of a devout muslim about the need to serve allah, but there's another way to read it where he says life is bitter and he talks about the people who served allah with jihad. so it's hard to know exactly what that means. let me put it this way, they don't find that in any way conclusive. >> michael mccaul says he
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believes the gunman was inspired by isis. >> we've seen too much of this traffic. there are too many warning signs. the targets are identical to the targets called by isis to attack. so my judgment in my experience is that this was an isis-inspired attack. >> later at a press conference the fbi special agent in charge ed reinhold was asked about that speculation from the congressman. he said he couldn't confirm it. >> at this time we have no indication that he was inspired by or directed by anyone other than himself. >> so pete i wonder if you can sort of parse that for us or take a shottate ateshot at it because the congressman is saying this is too much of a coincidence. this fits it to a tee. >> yes, there are people inside law enforcement who are saying the same thing and in the intelligence community as well.
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congressman mccaul was careful to sigh that was his own conclusion based merely on what is publicly known, and the fbi has said they're just not there yet in terms of the investigation. but you know i think one reason that they can't take their eyes off the terrorism possibility is the fact that this was -- these were military facilities that were attacked. one of the themes in isis social media repeatedly over the past six months is attack military facilities. just today the military has again tried to adjust to this. the marine corps has shut down its recruiting centers within 40 miles or so of where the attack was. it's told people not to wear their uniforms as a prudent response to this. we've heard of this advice to military people not to wear their uniforms in public we've heard about military bases going to a higher level of security for months now precisely because of this constant barrage of social media suggestions that
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people attack military targets. >> pete williams from nbc news thank you for your time. i appreciate that. here's more from congressman michael mccaul, again, the chairman of the homeland security committee, earlier today. >> i have a lot of emotions about what happened yesterday. this is the event we've been most worried about, and then it happened. i don't know how many more of these could happen but i can tell you there are isis investigations in all 50 states across the united states of america. they're permeating our society and this country through the internet. and through social media. >> joined now by a self-described one-time supporter of militant jihadi culture. he eventually turned his back on radical islam and went to work for the canadian intelligence service as an undercover operative. thanks for joining us. i'm just curious, based on your intimate knowledge of this world when you look at the clues that are out in public right now,
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this question that's being raised of was this a lone wolf was this somebody who was inspired by something overseas could there have been more coordination with a group overseas, this trip to jordan that's coming under scrutiny now. does this look like anything in particular to you? >> yeah i think the signs are there as many other individuals have suspected or speculated that it's isis inspired at this point. the difference between inspired and directed if you just subscribe to their ideology and you self-activate, they'll take credit for it. but directed means you went somewhere, you received training and they told you which targets or they told you to scope out the targets, then you went and did the attack. in this case this guy went to a military recruiting center drove ten miles, went to another facility. it was very deliberate. it seems he's either done surveillance of the targets already, he could have just you
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know he had enough guns and ammunition to hit civilians, but he didn't. i'm suspecting that you will see probably some kind of foreign grievance attached to this probably related to the wars in iraq and afghanistan. this is a consistent theme with domestic terrorist attacks. >> i think what you're describing there, the difference between the inspired and directed attacks, the inspired ones in a way i think probably cause more worry over here because they seem less capable of us stopping in any way because you're not trying to break up a network that might have all these communications going on and extensive planning and coordination. you're just talking about an individual who is in a chat room and gets an idea in their head and they're acting on it. seems that's a scarier possibility to a lot of people. >> yeah rightfully so. and even in your scenario you assume that he's in ra chatroom and leaving a digital foot
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print. the worst is where they don't leave a digital footprint. in these blog posts, you could read into those. the one where he gives a parable of the man describing the elephant. he talked about immigrating to the supposed caliphate. this is isis-speak. the fact that he attacked in ram ma -- ramadan itself this is what isis is saying. he's a devout muslim he was up on dui charges. possibly because of the shame and guilt of that he was up in court to deal with that issue. maybe that was an aggravating factor in this and kind of made it easier for him to go out in a blaze of glory. >> i'm curious if you make anything of the seven-month trip to the middle east that now the fbi will be looking closely at. on the one hand maybe it could be just to visit family. on the other hand a speculation would be maybe there's some kind of coordination going on in a
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trip like that. or maybe something in between where there's just exposure to ideas he wouldn't get over here. what do you make of that? >> of course hindsight is 20/20. but if we heard that somebody was going to the middle east that's not a red flag. people do that all the time. i'm curious to see -- he didn't manifest any kind of sudden religious change before he went. that sudden change happened after he went. that does beg the question what happened while he was there? did he meet someone and was radicalized by somebody and maybe it's a directed attack? or did he just go there and see for himself? was he just watching the news and saw what was happening and decided to blame the u.s. for whatever it could be. he could have bought into the narrative of isis. you know there's a lot of sympathies in jordan. there's certain segments in jordan that do have sympathies
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towards isis so -- >> mubin sheikh thank you for your time tonight. >> thanks. >> much more from chattanooga later in the hour. coming up 2016 politics. donald trump is the republican front-runner in yet another national poll. he's turning the republican race into a roast. that giant sucking sound you hear, that's trump hogging the spotlight for the rest of the field. and they're all on stage in iowa for the first time together tonight. clinton's looking to avoid what happened in iowa to her eight years ago where she finished in third place behind both barack obama and john edwards. remember him. the right wing is trying to turn the horrible events into benghazi light. why it sounds so familiar. finally also selling the iran nuclear deal. president obama has his work cut out for him with congress and now top democratic senator chuck schumer of new york says he has no problem voting against the president.
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we will make america great again, better than ever before. we'll do it fast we'll do it effectively, and you are going to love the job i do. that i can tell you. that i can tell you. i appreciate it. and remember the silent majority is back. and don't forget it. this is the silent majority. and thank you, thank you. >> welcome back to "hardball."
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that was donald trump stumping in new hampshire, flashing his bravado to those who were eating it up. they're not the only ones. according to a new poll just out today 70% of republicans say that they agree with trump's controversial comments about mexico. cough of "the new yorker" speaks for itself. trump's belly flop into the race has thrown the republican primary into chaos. trump is the front-runner in that fox poll with 18% and leads scott walker by 3, jeb bush by 4. they appear to be pulling away from the field just a little bit. since june trump's gains have been huge. he's up 14 points in just a matter of weeks. but over that same time walker has managed to gain three points as well and jeb bush has gained two points. but if you're outside that top three, your support is either drying up or it's going nowith respect. eugene robinson robert costa. in terms of taking the oxygen
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away from the rest of this field, the effect donald trump has had, the candidate that's interesting for me to watch, is ted cruz because ted cruz is the only one out there saying nice things about donald trump. what i'm reading that as is a calculation by ted cruz that this trump thing has a shelf life and when he implodes ted cruz by being nice to him now will be able to vacuum up his voters. is that a smart calculation? >> the post got that scoop this week. cruz has a strategy here but it could be a risky gamble. donald trump is an unpredictable politician. even if you think you're courting him you're doing all the right things going to trump tower, that guarantees nothing. you say one line against him in a debate he could get angry. that possible support could evaporate. >> eugene robinson we know he's hurting, for instance marco rubio. we haven't heard that much from him lately. anybody in this field besides donald trump himself that donald trump's candidacy is actually helping at this point?
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>> i think you could argue that he's helping jeb bush in that he's taking away from the others right? you saw trump and walker and bush in a top echelon and everyone else losing support. so he's hurting all the others. he could establish jeb bush as sort of the safe sane establishment alternative. and scott walker we'll have to see. he just announced. let's see if this sort of bump that he's getting persists. but right now i'd have to say potentially jeb bush. but wait till the first debate. >> life after trump is proving difficult for many candidates in the republican field. according to that fox news poll out today, there's support for ben carson the darling of the tea party movement has been cut in half since trump got in the race. mike huckabee's support has dropped, he's an evangelical candidate that you would not
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expect to be affected by trump. rick perry, trump is going at him hard. he's at 1%. there's lindsey graham and george pataki that have gone from barely registering in the polls to not registering at all. robert costa, we play that clip right there. he's talking about the silent majority, a term we haven't heard used since nixon days. donald trump says he's bringing the silent majority back. i look at the gains and the numbers he just put up and other polling that showed his approval rating his popularity specifically with tea party voters has turned around in the last month. they were against him, now they're very much for him. when donald trump says the silent majority, is he talking about the tea party? >> in a sense, he is, but he's also talking to people who are fed up and frustrated with politics in general, who aren't part of the normal republican coalition. i was at that phoenix rally with mr. trump, walked around him, 145d shadowed and reported. he met so many people who aren't
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the normal c-pac conservative crowd. these are people who haven't voted in the last cycles. now they see him as an outside they can rally around. to see someone who is not only eating into the conservative bloc but he's building his new coalition that has independents moderates in it as well. >> gene, you look at the polls, the rules that are in place right now, this first republican debate only about three weeks away. we've seen these debates can make or break candidacies. the top ten in the polls coming into that debate they get a ticket, get to go on stage. the rest of them forget it. they're not there. donald trump he's going to cost somebody else. maybe raa sitting governor, a senator a spot on the stage. he's getting candidates attention to make sure they're in the top ten. >> he's keeping them out of the running right now. wait till you get to the debate. because guess who's going to hog the attention during that session however long it lasts?
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it's going to be dond trump. he knows how to get attention. he's better at that i would venture than any of the other republican candidates or perhaps better than all of them put together in getting attention. you give him that sort of stage he can go after bush he can go after -- i think rick perry may try to go after him if rick perry makes the debate. and trump would just jump all over. it's going to be entertaining. >> steve -- >> yeah go ahead. >> i was with trump and i asked him about the debates. he shrugged he said whatever. because he doesn't think he needs the debates as a launching pad. he can go on tv any day, talk to any news outlet make news put the pressure on his rivals and his competitors. he doesn't see the debates as that important. he sees it as his opportunity to hog the stage and let the cards fall where they may. >> thank you to gene robertson, gene costa. we have breaking news a brush
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fire has jumped a highway in southern california. you're looking at a picture of interstate 15 at the el cajon pass. there are reports that some people have suffered burns. we'll listen to our station knbc. >> to get that fire hose as close as possible to the fire. i'm going to pan over to the right which is going to be towards the north. and you can see that that car carrier is now burning out of control. several cars on fire there. the cab of the car carrier as well as a couple of suvs sitting right above it there. a very significant fire now just a hundred feet north of that original car fire. >> you mentioned those people who are walking along the shoulder we saw that as well and speculated perhaps they were being led by fire crews, but your impression that no they were not. >> right here there does not appear to be any authority leading them in any one direction. these are folks who are literally left on the freeway
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now with themselves and their property, the property being their vehicles and many of them abandoning their vehicles. some folks actually walking closer to the flames. you know this is such a dangerous situation. you still have parts of the guardrail that are on fire. you can see different posts with flames skirting the freeway here and fires breaking out now left and right. it's just a terrible situation. folks are literally walking in the middle of all this. >> chris, we're going to stay on your pictures here. looks like we have two major fires burning. the car carrier that we're looking at right now, and then i would say less than a quarter mile away from that we have the other fire but we have with us on the phone, someone with the u.s. forest service. are you with us still? u.s. -- no we seem to have lost him. chris, we'll go back up to you at this point. where is the closest water as best you can tell out there? other than what is being dropped from the water-dropping choppers.
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where are they having to go to get any kind of reourssource? >> without speculating, i really can't say because there's no body of water close to here. that would explain why the water drops, if you will are few and far between. it's hard to make out. i cannot think of any body of water in this vicinity but you can see another fire now breaking out rather just to the west of the freeway, just off the freeway here a couple of feet from the guardrail. the top part of your screen will be the west side of the freeway. and there's hot spots breaking out on the west side as well as the east side folks walking on the freeway and that car carrier going up in flames. here comes another water drop as they try to get more water. he just used his bambi bucket to get water on the west side of the freeway, now that car fire continuing to spread. >> there's nowhere to go the cars are not backing off the freeway. these cars appear to be
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abandoned at this point? >> as far as we know all these cars according to chp upwards of 70 or 80 vehicles have been abandoned here and left to burn until they can get this fire under control. >> looking at a map, the only lake i see really nearby is lake matthews and that's not even close. >> that's not too close. and there goes the boat. the boat that we were just looking at just caught on fire. that just happened in the last 30 seconds about that happened in the last 30 seconds. that's how quick. all it takes is a little ember to travel across these lanes and another car catches on fire. there you have it. now eight vehicles and a boat. so just a situation that's continuing to spread. as we can see, it's obvious that resources at this point at this location are very limited. firefighters really running out of options here. relying mostly on those helicopters to get as much water on here as possible. but this appears to be getting worse before it gets better.
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>> we want to -- once again, if people are joining us give them a location on this. this is the 15 freeway just north of the 138 and south of oak hills exit here. chris, you were very quick on the scene here. i guess for people who are just tuning in and watching this they have to be stunned by seeing this. how did it get to this point? normally when there's a brushfire this close to the freeway, they shut down the freeway. how did it happen? can you explain it to us? >> the only way that i can imagine that these folks managed to get this close to the flames i mean we heard reports when the fire broke out shortly after 2:00, if i'm not mistaken that this was indeed a rapidly spreading fire. and we hear that quite often depending on the amount of fuel in any given brush fire that dictates just how quick and how rapid that fire will move. when they say rapid, sometimes they really mean a rapidly spreading fire and it just may have happened all too quick for
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any authorities to get on scene to break up traffic, to develop a traffic break and keep these people out of harm's way. fortunately, as we've heard, most have been able to self-evacuate. some folks have been injured. we're still working on those numbers, but it appears that whatever happened here shortly after 2:00 happened so quick that there are a large number of innocent bystanders drivers, motorists who are on the 15 freeway and they're just unable to escape at least get their cars out of harm's way. we hope as many as possible were able to get out of their cars and at least save their own lives and their own family's lives, their passengers but you see a lot of cars going up in flames. >> i've seen so many people on the side of the freeway. that's good news that we do know people managed to get out. we don't know if everyone has gotten out. tony shin is in the thick of it now. tony where are you? >> i'm just north of the 138
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probably about a thousand yards. and take a look behind me. you can see, as we head north right there, that's the 15 freeway where right below that smoke plume is the 15. let me tell you the traffic is absolutely horrific right now. a lot of people trying to head north on the 15. they are i've seen people drive wildly trying to head north toward this fire. i'm guessing to try to get home to victorville or somewhere in the high desert not realizing the kind of danger they're heading to. that's one of the reasons we pulled off. let's get off on the 138. it's a safe distance away. we can see what's going on. you can see what's going on. there's a lot of smoke, there are huge flames. the wind is picking up right now. i mean since i've been here for the past what five ten minutes. the wind has really gone up dramatically. i just lost my phone connection. so if you're trying to talk to
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me, i hope you understand i'm going to try to redial in. i can tell you that we haven't seen any traffic going north on the 15 at this point. of course southbound traffic is stopped. a lot of people are trying to get home. they're just going to have to be patient. because at this point this fire is just burning out of control. there's a very scary situation. we all know exactly how dry it is out here. then when have that wind picking up, this is exactly what can happen. now the question is what started this fire? that's the big question. was it a careless situation with a cigarette thrown out a window? was it some kind of catalytic converter? these are things that they'll be looking at once this is over. once again before i send it back to you, you can see this plume of smoke. right now looks like this fire is heading up the hill towards the phelan area. i'll send it back to you in the
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studio. >> you know what tony we want to remind people unless you see these pictures you couldn't believe what is happening here. the 15 is shut down in both directions. we want to remind people we're glued to the television and the pictures coming in from the area. if you have to step away you can watch this on our nbcla app. we're streaming this live. you can see another water-dropping chopper -- >> all right, been listening live to coverage from our affiliate in california. joining us live from our los angeles bureau is hallie jackson. what can you tell us? >> as you look at these pictures, they're stunning. we've learned new information from cal fire is there are some burn victims because of this. we don't know how many but we know that several ambulances two medevac choppers are on scene. some burned, some suffering from smoke inhalation as well. 500 acres have burned from what's called the north fire. and possibly homes or businesses
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have been destroyed. there are mandatory evacuation orders in place for the area around this. you look at this you heard it from the chopper pilot there on knbc. people haven't seen something like this before. we're looking at a dozen cars maybe more catching fire. we've been watching in our los angeles newsroom. one by one you're seeing the flames spread firefighters trying to get in there. even air drops, we've seen three or four air drops. water being dropped on the cars. you saw that do nothing. you just saw a big plume of steam. if we're looking further down the highway, another section where one, two cars are on fire plus the front of that tractor trailer. this shows no sign of stopping any time soon steve. we understand there was a drone in the area before. here in california especially in southern california we've had problems with drones flying over wildfires and firefighters being forced to call off the aircraft. luckily that did not happen in this case. the drones went away according to cal fire. that's a good thing.
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but obviously something they're keeping an eye on. this absolutely stunning. at one point we saw people walking on the highway past where these cars were burning to get their cars which were further up the freeway out of the way. to say it's a mess is an understatement. >> i wonder for viewers who don't necessarily know the geography of southern california, the west coast. we're watching this here from new york city. >> yes. >> this is el cajon, california ten miles east of san diego? >> yeah actually out near san bernardino the cajon pass. if you're going to vegas, don't go that away. it's where people head when they're east of the city. it's not a necessarily populated area but it's busy particularly remember it's 4:30 the beginning of rush hour. people have no dpplace to go. we saw fire trucks and firefighters on the highway there. >> you were saying it sounds like you have not seen something
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like this before. we hear all the time about the drought conditions the risks of fire but seeing a fire spread to a highway like this this is not something you've seen happen out there. >> you know i haven't been in l.a. quite that long, but certainly lylien lyly unexpected to see. there have been hundreds so far already and the drought conditions mean they're spreading faster than ever. particularly when you combine them with the extreme heat that we're seeing in the summertime. but to see something where the wildfire -- we don't know what started this car fire but where you see this so close together it's incredibly unusual. look at this. a dozen cars completely engulfed. it's wild. >> also seems that you mentioned there were the water drops that we saw a couple of those take place in these shots. we saw a boat that was being toud by one of these cars catch on fire. it seems right now -- i'm looking at all of the burning and the smoke on my screen and
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i'm not seeing much water being brought in there right now. maybe authorities figuring out how to approach this. >> think about the danger when you get to something like this right? cars in the freeway. you don't know how much gas is in these cars and what can happen if this fire spreads. the helicopters come over they've dropped. unfortunately, it hasn't appeared to do much when you look at the intensity of the flames. >> looks like a helicopter hovering right there. another one of the water drops. it's 7:30 here on the east coast, 4:30 on the west coast. rush hour traffic on a summer friday. this must have just brought this portion of southern california to a complete standstill. >> as you might imagine, it's on every news station here in los angeles, here in southern california. everybody has broken in since beer right around news time to let people know stay away from this area. the last thing the firefighters need is more people driving this
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way. if you can avoid this area obviously you need to. even in our own newsroom here people are sort of glued to this as we watch another water drop. even there, you see the orange flames fly right back up. >> look at that. again right now, what they're fighting this with right now, it seems the fire seems no match. you were saying the medical situation here you're reporting several burn victims. what do we know? >> correct, currently the information is still coming in. we want to be careful with our reporting. there are injuries. we take a look at the wildfire that's farther off the highway. we don't know how many vips have burns, who inhaled smoke although there are some who have been treated. even sort of responders are trying to gather this information and figure this out
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as we're reporting it. >> if you can just tell tusus, life in california we know about the water rationing taking place, life in california with the incredible drought conditions the risks for fire what's it been like the last year or so the last few months? >> awful. in a word not good. we talk about it all the time with california fire officials. it's something that we don't get on the east coast. but out here people know that wildfires are kind of a way of life. california officials have warned that because of the drought there's more -- they call it fuel for the fires, obviously, we're talking about brush, timber that's just dried. it is like lighting a match to brush basically. so it goes up faster than we've seen. it's possible. we saw it last year we're seeing it again this year from california officials that this could be the worst wildfire season yet.
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it's obviously a concern. something we have to live with in southern california and really throughout the west on a daily basis. there's not much you can do other than be responsible with how you react from the environment. >> if you're just joining us and looking at pictures to update on what we're following. this is a wildfire that's jumped on to interstate 15 in el cajon, california, to the east of san diego. you're looking at a tractor trailer that's caught on fire. we were looking a minute ago at firefighters who were on the ground behind it with some hoses. we've also been seeing -- you can see there on the side of it right now there are a number of vehicles right now on that highway that are on fire. in the last ten minutes of watching this we've seen vehicles catch on fire. this is obviously a very volatile situation.
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helicopters flying overhead dropping water intermittently. it hasn't done much at this point. that's obviously an incredible fire they're up against. hallie jackson is joining us from los angeles, a reporter out there. the weather obviously looks like a nice typical southern california day. is it particularly hot out there today? particularly dry? >> interesting that you ask that because we just got word from cal fire that this is a wind-driven fire. it's very windy where this is happening. that's a huge factor in this. that's visible even to the naked eye. look how far the smoke is blowing. it's not heading straight up. you can see the wind is taking it up the pass. as for the weather, it's a typical july day for california. hot, obviously, but nothing particularly extreme. i want to remind you we're zoomed in on this picture because it's stunning. even as we were talking this
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fire starting at the cab of the tractor trailer. it spread almost halfway down the truck. if you pull up you can see how big this is together 500 plus acres. there are mandatory evacuations in place. that's worth mentioning as well. >> again, i say that was el cajon, california. actually, the cajon pass. that's where the images you see on your screen are coming from. look at the black smoke coming out of that tractor trailer. chris hayes has been reporting on the drought in california all week. we just cut in 15 minutes ago. looking at this incredible scene south of where you are right now. just your reaction looking at this? >> you can actually see the plumes of smoke emanating up over the santa monica mountains which are right behind me here
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over my right shoulder. we're here at the griffith observatory. we're seeing a 50% year over year increase in calls to california. this weekend i did a flyover with the air chief for the san diego department. he was just pointing out all the spots that they have fought fires last year. they had ensue last year historically anomalous behavior. starting in may which is before fire season starts they saw fires burning along the coast. if there's anything anammalous here it's how quickly this moved and got to that freeway. the reason it moved that fast is that it was burning up a slope. in southern california, development tends to be along the ridge line. that puts freeways and houses in the path of fire burning up a slope. wildfire burning up a slope burns faster because it keeps tp fuel ahead of it.
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whether a freeway that's carved into the hillside or whether it's a development. we know this came very fast. san bernardino fire department saying this was a 500-acre fire that moved so quickly, they were able to get people there out of their cars. that's why you're seeing those abandoned cars there. a lot of people looking at this say they've never seen water drops on top of burning steel cars on top of a highway. >> it's been amazing just watching these pictures. at this point, those water drops not able to accomplish much. we're looking at the tractor trailer and look at the smoke coming out of it. other vehicles if you number up the shot it goes down the road. yeah, go ahead. >> let me just say that this also presents a real problem for the firefighters on the ground therep about generally air drops like the ones you're seeing right now are used to support those on the ground who are
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actually putting the fire out. the way those fires get put out on the ground is they dig trenches and they're able to cordon it off and put it out. that's a tricky situation here where you're doing air drops on top of literally thousands of gallons of flammable gasoline in a huge stretch of freeway that's been closed off. that's a different sort of animal than the standard procedure by which they'll attack something there. >> you can see in the shot that water being dropped. the idea of the brushfires the wildfires that start out of nowhere and suddenly spread very quickly. this is a day-to-day fact of life in southern california. >> as the san diego fire air activities fire chief was telling me you need three things. you need fuel wind and a spark. it's not a question of if. it's a question of when. what happened during the drought has exacerbated the amount of
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dry fuel. the more things build up the more fuel you have. the drier it is the faster and more quickly it burns. what moves this fire quickly is the high winds. we can feel how breezy it is over here. that's what's pushing that smoke that's billowing up over my right shoulder right here. but the issue isn't that these wildfires didn't happen before the drought. the issue is that the drought greatly intensifies. and each year. three years in a row, the three driest years in california record keeping. that produces more and more dry fuel for these fires to burn. firefighters have been girding for what they think was going to be possibly one of the most catastrophic they faced. >> these images you see on the screen right now, this is interstate 15 cajon pass.
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this tractor trailer has been on fire. black smoke gushing out of that. occasional periodic water drops from helicopters overhead. we've seen some firefighters on the ground trying to get close to this thing. as chris says a very dangerous situation for firefighters on the ground. this is rush hour in southern california on a friday in summer. you mentioned the last three years in terms of drought being the worst in california. put in terms how long that drought is. how long are we talking about without rain or limited rain? >> rain in southern california is sparse to begin with. so the diminution in actual rainfall here has been -- it depends upon the year in the 20% to 30% range below normal. but in some places that plummets
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all the way down to 80% less than normal. we're seeing reservoir draws, some which are at half of their level. most of the water for that state is coming from the snowpack that's far away from here that's in northern california. but even the dry areas of california throughout the southern california area which is typically arid have been much drier the last three years. >> chris hayes in los angeles. your show will start in a few minutes. we'll let you go get ready for thap that. hallie jackson, as we continue to look at the images on the screen have you learned anything more from authorities on this situation? >> a little bit. one of the questions you might be asking yourself if you're watching why aren't fire trucks closer. why aren't they able to pull water on the ground and bring it up quicker than they have been although you see a firefighter there now. as these cars saw the fire creeping toward them obviously people abandoned their cars. so there's nobody in them.
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that's what's creating a real problem, a bottleneck for firefighters trying to get close to the scene. chris made excellent point. let's expand on some of those and flesh out the numbers. this year in california there have been 3300 fires. that's up from an average over five years of about 2200. we are seeing more fires this year than normal. when chris talks about a fire bun -- burning up a canyon that's one of the most dangerous places to be. we're in the fourth year of a historic drought here in california. and that's providing fuel for the fires. there's something called the santa ana winds. folks who live here very familiar with it. that can be a problem. we see them right around this time in the afternoon as you see the way the ground heats up and the wind picks up. oftentimes you'll see wildfires. 4:48 here in l.a. that's another issue that firefighters have been contending with.
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hoping to obviously, get a handle on this fire. crews are out there. you're seeing the drops. the choppers, one for medevac and one for serious burn victims. oftentimes if this were a land wildfire or an area of forest you would see retardant drops. you can see the red streaks. that's retardant that's been dropped. obviously hard to do on a highway near people. >> this is obviously a very volatile situation right now. the risk of this spreading further, is there any sense how long this would take to get under control? >> great question. i couldn't answer that. and i think that we're just going to have to wait and see. >> stay with us. joining us now is melanie from the u.s. forest service. i can ask that same question to you right now. the risk that this thing spreads and gets much worse than we're seeing right now, what is the risk of that right now? >> well the fire jumped
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interstate 15, so we have the vehicles on fire but also of concern are the homes to the north of this area. we have a mandatory a mandatory evacuation in the baldy mason area. they have set up an evacuation area and called for evacuation in the homes in that area. >> have you ever seen or heard of a situation like this where the fire jumps the interstate and vehicles catch on fire like this? >> yes, we have seen it happening happening. probably not to this extent fwu vehicles catch on fire across the freeway in the past. >> are there a set of conditions that need to be in place for that to happen? cars are just -- is there a car just driving and there's a spark? what would happen? >> well it's a busy friday afternoon. we have a lot of vacationers and travelers on interstate 15. both commuters and vacationers for the weekend. this is one of those narrow
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crossings through the mountains and so it was busy with traffic. they have construction so it's you know reduced lanes and a lot of slow traffic moving through there. the fire moved at a rapid rate of spread. >> in terms of controlling this right now, again, we have been keeping an eye on that tractor trailer. you can still see flames. you can see an incredible amount of black smoke. we have been watching the helicopters overhead dropping water. now you are seeing firefighters getting closer. a plane now, looks like coming in that might be carrying some water as well. in terms of getting this fire on the interstate under control, how long would that take? >> i have no estimate. they are working as hard as they can to control the fire on those vehicles. they are dropping water, as you said. they have hoses to some of them. emergency equipment is having
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difficulty getting through because of the congestion and the vehicles left on the freeway with no keys or ways to move them. we have multiple vehicles on fire. >> there's high winds today. this is a part of the state, a part of the country that doesn't get that much precipitation to begin with. there's the drought on top of this. are there other factor that is make something like this go into the equation? >> well it's very high temperatures today. it's been in the mid to high 90s today. as you said the winds are gusting through this pass which they often do and it's burned in heavy brush and grass, which allows the fire to move at a rapid spread. >> we have as we look at that airplane, we are showing shots of that.
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we have our local affiliate out there, knbc covering this wildfire that has jumped interstate 15 in southern california. our affiliate has been providing coverage of this since it happened. let's go back and listen to them. >> that large big rig, a complete loss. chuck? >> it's going to be interesting to see if they use the big ten tanker on the freeway portion of the fire or the brush portion of the fire. as you know it drops so much water, it's extremely dangerous for anyone on the ground if they were to try it over the freeway. who knows. they could either do one, let's see what's going to happen here. >> i venture to say he's going to aim for the larger body of fire with the fire retardant. especially now, reports of structures being threatened. i imagine that may be his focus. as we get more information to try to find the structure that is are going up in flames. right now, all eyes on this group of cars, abandoned cars,
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we should say, most of them have been abandoned. this is taking place on the southbound lanes on the 15 freeway south of hisperia. >> the structures are in the baldy mesa area. he confirmed structures burned he didn't have a number. he confirmed there were evacuations. >> we just got confirmation the fire is up to 2,000 acres on this fire. as we look down on this large big rig that is still burning on the side of the 15 freeway. not on the side it's still on the 15 freeway as well. we have the ten tanker the dc-10 tanker circling above. we are waiting to see where it's going to drop. on the freeway or further up the hillside where homes are threatened. now you are looking at the northbound lanes of the 15 freeway into the barstow area.
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are those lanes open or are they shut down? >> sorry, trying to find the dc-9, what was your question? >> are the northbound lanes shut down? we have a picture from the ground of the dc-10. >> the northbound lanes were getting through earlier. i can't see where traffic was shut down. i can tell you, as we try and find that dc-10, once again, traffic is completely jammed in both directions including the northbound side of the 15 freeway. even if it's not shut down traffic is at a standstill coming in from san bernardino. again, both directions northbound and southbound, these lanes here at the center of the fire are the southbound lanes. to answer your question chuck, not clear if they have gone ahead and shut down the northbound lanes. i believe was that the dc-10
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that made that drop? >> the dc-9 was flying around. you have two large passenger jet aircraft that are converted for fire use flying in the area here. once again, we remind you how tricky it is. you are in a pass you have winds to deal with. it is very tricky flying to try to get the water drops right on the spot. >> ift's quite a sight. news chopper 4 flying above all the fire flight with the numerous air tankers operating in a close proximity. such meticulous work as they get into the thick of the smoke and make the drops, one by one, not only air tankers, but helicopters and all the resources you see here this afternoon. again, right now, we are keeping an eye on the truck fire which they had been using helicopters to drop water on the fire. that may help but this container here we have no idea what was
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burning in there. all the other cars were filled with gasoline presumably. that's very difficult to control. finally, what we do have is firefighters in place with hose lines to prevent the fire from spreading. that is something we did not have a couple hours ago, when this fire started. >> their main issue right here is trying to get the fire out to cool down some of the adjacent cars and move them off the freeway. we are concentrating on the i-15, but we want to mention that this fire has spread. it's up to 2,000 acres. the foothills of baldy mesa. mandatory evacuations going on in the area. let me give you the locations on that. east of sheep creek road north of the i-15 west of the i-15 south of felin road. that's the area they are concentrating on. we understand structures have burned there and there are mandatory evacuations. >> we are going to pull out of
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the coverage from knbc. this is interstate 15 in southern california. we are going back to hallie jackson, live in los angeles. what is the latest you can tell us? >> quick wrap. wind gusts are 35 to 40 miles an hour. no confirmed number of burn victims, but some victims are being treated for that and smoke inhilation. 15 cars burned. 2,000 acres burning from the north fire, this wildfire that is out by the ka hone pass. that is up from 500 when we started talking less than a half hour ago. we are going to keep an eye on this. choppers are doing water drops as well as there for medical evacuation. we are going to keep an eye on this. back to you. >> as we heard from our affiliates, a dangerous situation on the ground. we have been watching these water drops from the helicopters. a dangerous situation for them trying to navigate the high
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winds, the clouds of smoke, the black smoke and in between all of that, trying to drop water on to the very, sort of specific, almost pinpoints of fire along interstate 15. again, this fire we have been told has spread to 2,000 acres, a wildfire that jumped on the interstate outside los angeles and southern california. it is now 5:00 on almost 5:00 on the west coast. we are basically talking rush hour here in one of the most heavily congested parts of the country, southern california. all these cars on the road and again, we have been watching the situation for the last half hour. again, we can just i just want to see what that's showing there. we reached the end of our hour on "hardball." we are going to wrap up here. chris matthews will be back on monday. all the coverage will continue on "all in with chris hayes."
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>> thank you, steve. good evening from the griffith observatory in los angeles, i am chris hayes. we have been doing special coverage in california on the historic drought, now a fire broke out on the cajon pass. interstate 15 is closed in both directions. fire crossed the freeway setting cars and trucks a flame. the blaze started 2:30 people on friday interstate 15 north of highway 138. approximately 2000 acres in size. northbound and southbound interstate 15 are closed. according to the l.a. times, a drone flying near the blaze forced crews to abandon air drops. they have resumes. joining me the officer of california highway patrol. can you assure me that folks got out of those

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