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STUNNING VIDEO: Pilots' View Of California's Rim Fire

The view from space is amazing.

But perhaps even more impressive is the view from the cockpits of California Air National Guard as crews battle the huge Rim Fire burning near Yosemite National Park.

Our colleagues at KQED's News Fix blog have posted a series of the videos here. We'll embed the most recent one, which was taken last Thursday. We suspect many of you will agree it's stunning.

By the way, according to a note posted with the video, the landing gear warning can be heard on the video because the C-130J "is such a high-technology aircraft, disabling the audible warning has proven difficult. Lockheed, the ANG and USAF have determined a software solution and, with luck, will be integrating the fix before next fire season."

As for the fire, The Associated Press writes that "crews are finally gaining ... as fire officials expressed optimism even as the blaze grew larger while containment jumped to 20 percent. ... Nearly 3,700 firefighters battled the roughly 252-square-mile fire, the biggest wildfire on record in California's Sierra Nevada."

Southern California Public Radio continues to update its online "fire tracker" here. We'll embed its tool below.

Update at 2 p.m. ET. Nationally, Wildfire Activity Has Declined.

NPR's Howard Berkes tells us that:

Despite the dramatic nature of the Rim wildfire and more than 30 major wildfires burning in eight states, the National Interagency Fire Center has dropped its National Preparedness Level from "5," the top of the scale, to "4."

"This change reflects a decline in wildfire activity across the nation," NIFC reports in its daily National Fire News. There's diminished demand for resources, NIFC says, "as firefighters are making good progress toward containment goals on many large fires."

NIFC also notes that "recent precipitation in the West and a favorable weather forecast for the next week" indicates the demand for firefighters and equipment will continue to decline.

NIFC moved to Level 5 one week ago today (last Tuesday) for the first time in five years. But, on average over the last 20 years, the highest level of preparedness has been necessary every other year.

Close to 17,000 firefighters and support staff are out actively attacking wildfires. That's down about 1,000 firefighters from a week ago.

As bad as this wildfire season has been, it's still the second mildest season in the last 10 years in terms of acreage burned. More than 3.5 million acres have been scorched. That's half the acreage burned at this time last year and about 60 percent of the average for the last decade. The total of 33,766 wildfires to date is the lowest number of blazes in the last 10 years.

While the national outlook is improving, southern California is about to hit what is typically its most active months for wildfire.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.