September came to California with a searing surge of heat and threat of fire. From the coast hills clear up to timberline in the High Sierras, timber and brush were crackling dry and ready to flare like spilled gunpowder. Then electric storms came, and lightning lit the kindling; within ten days, 400 big and small fires flared across the countryside. By last week, when rain fell, some 300,000 acres had been charred to ashes by California's most disastrous fires in 30 years.

"This Is a Classic." At noon one day early this month,...

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