As previously mentioned, all three nightly newscasts originated live from the scene of California's devastating forest fires tonight as Katie Couric, Brian Williams and Charlie Gibson all gave live (or mostly live) and detailed reports from the afflicted region. Couric compared it to a "war zone" and "a living hell," saying that Lake Arrowhead region looked like "a smoky ghost town." Gibson ran through the litany of acres lost and people evacuated, and declared: "This is bad and it's going to continue to be bad."
All three broadcasts obviously featured seriously compelling footage, but CBS's opening was by far the most mesmerizing, featuring shot after dramatic shot of raging orange flames cut with embracing, weeping homeowners, the soot-rimmed eyes of a firefighter, and Couric in a helicopter, wind whipping through her hair, with Couric narrating over. Both Gibson and Couric opened with taped segments -- Couric on a hillside and Gibson dramatically from a helicopter, his voice intoning "Good Evening" filtered through a special headset mike, before both of them were revealed in their liveshots. Williams, meanwhile, started straight into the broadcast from amid the ruins, walking his viewers through the being-there experience in a long tracking shot at the top, including explaining the face mask around his neck to guard against breathing in the smoky, ash-filled air ("all times we're not on the air we have to put them on") and bending down to show viewers a Mazda wheelcover that had melted and then re-solidifid, puddle-shaped.