Disasters & Accidents

Authorities concerned over forest fire near Los Angeles

By Alex Segura Lozano

Los Angeles, Sep 15 (efe-epa).- A fire that is spreading in the Angeles National Forest northeast of Los Angeles has put local authorities on alert because of its proximity and the amount of smoke it is producing, a situation that is adversely affecting the air quality.

The fire has been dubbed the Bobcat blaze by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) and has burned more than 16,000 hectares (some 41,200 acres) during the week since it started, and fire teams have only been able to get it 6 percent contained.

Local authorities, who have called fire’s threat to the Los Angeles area “unusual,” say that it has eluded firefighters and is threatening communities in the area despite not having burned any homes or caused any injuries so far.

Besides deploying firefighters, one of the main measures taken by the unit tasked with monitoring the air quality in Los Angeles County was to issue a smoke alert directed in particular at the 60,000 residents of Arcadia, a city located in the LA metro area.

The fire has contributed significantly to several days of terrible air quality in Los Angeles, where residents have reported strong smoke and a extremely hazy conditions, according to the Los Angeles Times.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti in a message on the social networks attributed the fire to climate change, saying that the results and effects of global warming are “at our door.”

Garcetti said that the way in which local residents confront the problem will determine our own survival, adding that Los Angeles is committed to a “green” pact and its promise of equity and sustainability, but now the region needs “federal solutions,” the last remark an allusion to President Donald Trump.

On Monday, Trump visited California and when asked by reporters there about whether he believed that climate change has been a factor in the rapid spread of the devastating fires, he responded that many things are possible.

“We have to do a lot about forest management,” Trump said. “Obviously forest management in California is very important and now it extends to Washington and extends also to Oregon. There has to be good, strong forest management, which I’ve been talking about for three years with this state, so hopefully they’ll start doing that.”

“It’ll start getting cooler,” Trump added. “You just watch.”

The fires are the key feature in the current US political battle, where Republicans generally blame them on inadequate forest management which, they say, has allowed dead wood and other flammable materials to accumulate on forest floors for months and now is burning uncontrollably after lightning strikes in many areas.

Some 16,000 firefighters are working to try and control multiple fires across all three West Coast states, but their job is being made difficult by strong winds that in the coming hours could further aggravate and spread the flames.

Since mid-August, when the fire erupted, the blazes have killed more than 30 people and caused tens of thousands to have to evacuate their homes. In addition, a number of people have gone missing in the shifting and complicated environment in the fire-ravaged areas.

Cal Fire said that fire activity increased in a number of areas on Monday, although progress was being made on bringing other fires under control.

Experts place the blame for the fires on several sources, specifically global warming – with less rainfall, more droughts and very high temperatures – along with forest management, as well as an increased human presence in traditionally unpopulated areas, all of which make fires, when they do break out, much more dangerous than they otherwise might be.

Generally, the worst time for forest fires does not come until October in California, but this year the state has already seen 1.2 million hectares (about 2.5 million acres or 3,900 square miles) destroyed, a record level, according to California forestry department figures.

The enormous quantities of smoke that are emanating from the fires on the West Coast are being trapped in upper atmosphere air currents and being blown throughout the US, the National Weather Service reported on Tuesday.

Satellite images from Tuesday morning show smoke in the air moving across a large portion of the Northeastern US and the Mid-Atlantic region, the Baltimore-Washington weather service tweeted.

The office said that the smoke is obscuring the sun and will keep temperatures a few degrees cooler than what they would be without it, and in fact this week smoky and hazy conditions have been reported in New York City, Boston and even the state of Maine.

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