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As Wildfires Approach, 'Everyone's Just Trying To Get Out Of Here'

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK. So here's the update on the fires in Southern California. There have been a number of them. Most are described as at least 75 percent contained. But there's one fire that keeps spreading. The Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties is the first and the largest of them.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Firefighters have been trying to contain that blaze since last week, but it is only spreading. The University of California, Santa Barbara is postponing final exams until January because of this.

INSKEEP: We reached Jacob Gellman, who's in the first year of his Ph.D. program at that school.

JACOB GELLMAN: It's a big shock for a lot of people. And honestly, everyone's just trying to get out of here. The mandatory evacuation zones are really quickly approaching Santa Barbara. And it feels really surreal to be here.

MARTIN: Santa Barbara is located on the coast and surrounded by mountains. There's only a couple of roads you can take to get into the city, which makes it hard for firefighter crews to get in as well.

GELLMAN: My friends and I have all been looking at real-time satellite images of the fire spreading. And we're just hitting refresh all day on our browsers and looking at the fire getting closer and closer.

INSKEEP: Wow. Gellman says he is ready to leave if he's told. But until then, he's staying put.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.