tv NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt NBC September 12, 2020 2:06am-2:36am PDT
tonight the deadly wildfire disaster. dozens of fires still out of control in california, more than 20 now dead, half a million forced to evacuate in oregon tens of thousands in the path of the flames in california. is the state doing enough to prevent the fires? we asked the governor in our exclusive interview. plus, the role of climate change, why are we seeing these intense blazes so early into the season? the new pandemic timeline, dr. anthony fauci on when a vaccine will be widely distributed and when the country might get back to normal as he disagrees with the president on whether we've rounded the final turn in all this. marking 9/11 in the middle of another deadly crisis, the presidential campaign
on pause with mike pence and joe biden bumping elbows as the nation honors the victims and heroes. the family of george floyd speaking out with new demands for justice. as all four former officers charged in his killing appear in court. are they pointing the finger at each other as election day nears we're inside a vital military mission with the national guard trying to protect the vote >> announcer: this is "nbc nightly news" with lester holt. good evening, everyone tonight much of the west coast is smothered in a blanket of smoke and misery, in california at least 20 lives have been lost to the more than two dozen major fires burning, thousands of homes destroyed. in oregon a massive evacuation is under way while a list of the missing grows. tonight with millions in the west living under a pall of unhealthy air. in an exclusive interview, the california governor tell us the climate catastrophe we were
warned of is here. miguel almaguer starts our coverage >> reporter: facing the most explosive conditions they've ever seen firefighters are losing homes and lives, across the west at historic rates, propelled by 45 mile an hour winds. butte county's bear fire has claimed at least ten lives with 16 still missing visiting the scene of this unfolding catastrophe, california's governor sitting down exclusively with nbc news. >> you've seen a lot of wildfires in your life, what do you make of the ones you've seen this year >> this is america fast forward california, the west coast of the united states, that includes washington and obviously oregon, are ople predicted would occur in 2040, 2050. but we're experiencing it today. >> reporter: california's nightmare now a searing reality for tens of thousands with homes still in the path of flames among the nearly 30
major infernos that are out of control today in california, the creek fire near fresno incinerated neighborhoods in minutes. >> there is no downtime because mother nature doesn't give us that. >> reporter: on the front lines we saw firsthand why this blaze alone will threaten lives and property into the winter. >> reporter: the lingering threat for firefighters continues nearly a week after the blaze first erupted. this is the problem. there is so much dry fuel here the blaze could burn for months. with california torching through its budget to fight fires critics say the state isn't doing enough. to suppress them >> we could get more aggressive, forest management, prevention strategy, land use strategies, technologies on suppression and our personnel in terms of pre-positioning a lot of our assets but there is something so fundamental that also cannot be denied and that is climate change >> reporter: it's not just california
struggling to contain the flames in oregon half a dozen towns decimated when walls of fire exploded over the region. thousands of homes may be gone. tonight 500,000 people, or 10% of those who live in oregon, have received evacuation alerts. >> we were trying to save everything. but -- >> reporter: tony and his wife robin tried to save their home and business but lost it all. they took this video before they fled. >> just looked at the fire, it is the first time in my life i felt defeated. >> reporter: with the west choking in smoke, the air quality in cities across the region are among the worst in the world the toxic haze blanketing skies as far as a thousand miles away. >> you don't need to be anywhere near this fire to actually be suffering from it. how worried are you about the health conditions of folks in this state. >> the air we're
breathing right now is equivalent to smoking 20 packs of cigarettes this is profound and consequential, the health impacts, strokes, heart attacks, respiratory issues this is a challenging time and we'll get through it >> reporter: tonight across the west lives and livelihoods are on the line as an unfolding disaster becomes a new permanent reality, engulfing the region in ways we have never experienced before miguel almaguer, nbc news, the sierra national forest. as you just heard from the governor this fire emergency is drawing new attention to the role of climate change in promoting conditions that fuel these kinds of blazes. steve patterson has more on that. from the fire zone >> reporter: the images are stark, the impact staggering. wildfires across the west spreading and scientists warning climate change is making it worse. >> there is, indeed, a clear link between record heat and climate change. >> reporter: and that heat creating warm, dry conditions for
wildfires to explode, right now there are nearly 30 major fires burning across the golden state, six of the largest 20 fires in california's history breaking out this year adding to the record breaking heat and bone dry conditions miles of dry brush and densely packed forest, a devastating cocktail, stoking a historic outbreak of mega fires. >> there's a lot of dense vegetation buildup. th climate is warmer and more conducive to extreme fire behavior. than it once was and you have a lot of people living in potentially harm's way. >> reporter: this is the result, acres of unrecognizable scorched earth, and in many cases it starts with just a spark. in southern california official say a 13,000 acre fire was caused by pyrotechnic device used in a gender reveal stunt in 2018 california's deadliest an most destructive wildfire in history sparked by the state's largest power company. they were found liable for not maintaining the forest around its electrical lines, in a fire that killed 85 people
experts say more tha a hundred years of overgrowth in some forests turned trees into match sticks waiting to be struck. >> what we now have is too many trees in our forests so that when fires do occur, they burn bigger, hotter and the impacts are dramatically greater. >> reporter: conditions have gotten so bad here in california that fire season is really all year round it's why some experts say that prescribed burns can actually cut back on the amount of fuel and reduce some of these devastating fires. lester >> all right, steve patterson, thanks. tonight a stark new assessment from dr. anthony fauci on the covid pandemic and when life as we know it might return. it came in an exclusive interview with andrea mitchell we have two reports on the pandemic this evening. starting with nbc's tom costello >> reporter: eight months into the pandemic the nation's top infectious disease expert is tonight offering a sobering new pandemic timeline. an fda approved vaccine by
the end of the year or early 2021 widespread vaccine distribution by mid next year, and a return to normal sometime after that. >> if you're talking about getting back to a degree of normality which resembles where we were prior to covid it's going to be well into 2021. maybe even towards the end of 2021. >> reporter: meanwhile dr. fauci and dr. deborah birx are trying to slow a new spread of covid after the labor day weekend, especially among people who are asymptomatic. >> if you've been on vacation, if you've gone to a ho spot, gone to a party in the neighborhood, if you took your mask off and were not socially distant you need to get tested. >> reporter: test results are coming back much faster than the week to ten days it took last month the niizona, commonspirit health i each day for hospitals in 21 states
results within 36 hours. >> we have so many asymptomatic people in the country. they don't know they have covid they don't know that they're potentially exposing many people to it. >> reporter: also tonight a new cdc report suggests small children can transmit the virus. 12 children acquired covid in child care centers, then spread it to parents and siblings one parent had to be hospitalized two of three asymptomatic children were spreading covid. >> we know from modeling studies that about 50% of the transmission occur from a person who's without symptoms to someone who's uninfected >> reporter: those infected but asymptomatic continue to pose the biggest challenge. tom costello, nbc news, washington. >> reporter: i'm andrea mitchel in washington where tonight the conflict between president trump and the nation's top infectious disease expert is out in the open dr. anthony fauci disagreeing with what the president said in michigan last night. >> we're rounding the turn
you see what's happening, you see the numbers are plunging. >> reporter: but dr. fauci the same day saying it was time to hunker down. how do you square those two messages >> i'm sorry, i have to disagree with that. because if you look at the thing you just mentioned, the statistics, andrea, they are disturbing. >> reporter: those numbers, nearly 40,000 cases a day in the u.s., and 1,000 deaths. >> when people will be spending more time indoors, and that's not good for a respiratory born virus you don't want to start off already with a baseline that's so high. >> reporter: another disagreement those large campaign rallies, even outdoors, without social distancing or masks. >> just because you're outdoors does not mean you're protected, particularly if you're in a crowd and you're not wearing masks. >> reporter: as for what the president told bob woodward about the pandemic. >> i wanted to always play it down i still like playing it down. >> reporter: those were his words. in his own voice. >> certainly there were disagreements as you know there were times
when i was out there telling the american public how difficult this is, how we're having a really serious problem and the president was saying it's something that's going to disappear which obviously is not the case when you downplay something that is really a threat that's not a good thing. >> reporter: asked about pressure for him to say school children do not need masks. >> that's a fool's errand, no one's going to pressure me or muzzle me to say anything publicly. >> reporter: dr. fauci says as we enter the fall and winter we have to do everything we can to prevent further surges and not let politics get in the way. lester. >> andrea mitchell tonight, thank you. we pause to remember where we were on this day in 2001 and remember those we lost honoring the victims of the 9/11 attacks 19 years later. here's rehema ellis. >> reporter: the chiming of bells and moments of silence, somber tributes that have become tradition. >> it's healing.
there's strength in numbers. when you realize you're not alone in it >> reporter: but on a day where one tragedy bed in the midst of another there were changes masks required, hand sanitizer stations no central stage. >> antonio jose rodriguez. >> reporter: and a pre-recorded reading of names by family members broadcast in the plaza. loved ones present, but socially distanced. some family members unhappy with that change attended an alternate ceremony nearby. but norene quinn who lost her 23-year-old son jimmy 19 years ago today said she understands the need for restrictions and would never miss a year. >> this is where we need to be today i must be where i lost my son i must be where my son died today. >> reporter: vice president mike pence and joe biden both attended the ceremony, greeting with a forearm bump biden stopping to console 90-year-old maria fisher who
handed him a photo of her son she lost on 9/11. >> never goes away. >> never goes away. >> reporter: that before traveling to shanksville, pennsylvania where he spoke to family members of those who died on flight 93. president trump also paid tribute in shanksville today, focusing on honoring first responders and sharing a message of unity. >> no matter the threat, no matter the odds, america will always rise up, stand tall and fight back. >> reporter: commemorations were scaled back at the pentagon too, not even family members could attend the ceremony. but even in a year where so many are suffering, today the nation kept its promise to never forget rehema ellis, nbc news, new york. an american hero says 9/11 was his call to service and toda president trump awarded army sergeant major thomas payne the medal of
honor. he was part of the elite delta force team that liberated dozens of iraqi civilians held hostage in an islamic state compound back in 2015 during an intense fire fight. we'll be right back in 60 seconds with the day in court for the ex-officers charged in connection with george floyd's death and their different versions of what happened the day he died. plus, a surprising mission for the national guard
the ex-police officers charged in george floyd's death appeared in the minneapolis courtroom for the first time today as new details emerge suggesting they could be turning on each other as they mount their defenses gabe gutierrez has the latest. >> reporter: with protesters and heavy security outside the courthouse the four fired minneapolis police officers charged in connection with george floyd's death appeared together in court for the first time. >> we allege the actions of the defendants illegally and unjustifiably ended george floyd's life. >> reporter: the ex-officers' lawyers asking a judge for separate trials.
in court filings this week the attorney for thomas lane wrote there are very likely going to be antagonistic defenses presented at the trial and it's plausible all officers have a different version of what happened and officers place blame on one another derek chauvin, is charged with second degree murder and manslaughter the others are charged with aiding and abetting but all face up to 40 years in prison if convicted. >> if you do the crime you do the time. so why is it different for these guys because we will get justice for my brother. >> reporter: rookie officers thomas lane and alexander kueng are arguing they were following the lead of chauvin, a veteran officer. chauvin and tou thao say they were simply assisting in an arrest that was in progress chauvin's attorney has also called his actions justifiable. in court filings some of the officers' attorneys have highlighted floyd's history of drug use as a factor in his death. >> the only overdose that killed george
floyd was an overdose of excessive force, and racism by the minnesota minneapolis police department. >> reporter: as the hearing ended protesters mobbed former officer lane who returned to his car. there will be no resolution for months. the ex-officers aren't set to go to trial until at least next march. gabe gutierrez, nbc news. still ahead inside the national guard cybersecurity mission to protect the vote.
back now with our vote watch series and a look at how states are working to prevent election interference, all part of an unusual new mission for the national guard courtney kube has details. >> reporter: last november the north carolina national guard helped win the battle against isis in syria. now a new mission here at home, helping protect north carolina's elections. >> here is their board of elections officer >> reporter: we're with lieutenan colonel seth barren at the election officer in rural warren county there are 13,000 registered voters here. >> i've got five soldiers on the ground assessment on their critical infrastructure. >> reporter: the team, five to ten cyberexperts, is crossing the state, scanning election systems for security vulnerabilities. what is an actual assessment look like for a county like this >> we'll dig into their network
configurations, their server configurations, their computer configurations we say here's what we would do to fix it. >> reporter: cybersecurity help, the county election director told us she needs. why is the guard's help important to a county like this. >> i'm a small county and it allows me -- it affords me the opportunity to feel comfortable with my i.t. and where i am compared to a larger county in the state. >> reporter: the north carolina national guard has worked with more than 30 of the state's 100 county election offices but north carolina's not the only state using its national guard for this type of mission. according to the national guard bureau more than 30 states have expressed interest in national guard election cybersecurity help u.s. intelligence recently warned russia is trying to undermine joe biden's campaign while china and iran want president trump to lose. at north carolina's state command center they look for potential cyberattacks on infrastructure as well as misinformation
and disinformation on social media 24/7. >> so this is the situation room >> reporter: their work already paying off this year, according to the state election board's director. >> we were in the midst of preparing for an election, getting our absentee by mail ballots out during the primary when one of ou counties did have an attack and they worked directly with us to make sure our election operations did not stop. >> reporter: it was cyberattack in another rural county back in february, phishing emails resulting in intrusions and malware. the guard team deployed making sure no impact on anything related to elections now with 52 days until the election the national guard expects even more states to request help lester >> courtney, thank you. up next, 9/11, lessons of resilience amid the pandemic.
finally, there's something to be learned 19 years after the tragedy of 9/11, perhaps it is a lesson in how to come back again. here's harry smith >> reporter: when we take a few seconds the memories come flooding back, the shock, the sorrow, the heroism of 9/11 the fear friends here in new york talked about moving out some did we wondered out loud about when it would feel normal again. safe that first subway ride, a knee knocker the first flight, we held our breath. lower manhattan
battered and scarred tourists came just to see the hole lordy. it didn't happen overnight. but after a while our dread turned to determination. the city came back to life in many ways it was better we were better we mourn now again and miss our pre-covid lives. we marvel at the heroism of the frontline workers and pray for the day when life is more like it used to be, less virtual, more face to face, less bound, more free a day when jobs come back, and anxiety goes out of business. we love a comeback story. how about we write another one? harry smith, nbc news. an ode to our that's "nightly news," before we go, a programming note, alexander vindman, key witness in president trump's impeachment speaking out exclusively in his
yes, we are still going strong. let's get it going with a great song. it's called "say something" by a great big world and christina aguilera. here is me and my band y'all with say somoething. ♪ ♪ say something, i'm giving up on you ♪ ♪ i'll be the one, if you want me to ♪ ♪ anywhere, i would've followed you ♪ ♪ say something, i'm giving up on you ♪ ♪ and i will swallow my pride
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