Disasters & Accidents

More than 40 California blazes burning in worst-ever fire season

By Alex Segura Lozano

Los Angeles, Sep 9 (efe-epa).- More than 40 wildfires are burning on Wednesday in California, 20 of them designated by authorities to be “big fires,” in the state’s worst-ever fire season.

In all, more than 7,600 fires have been detected in California since the beginning of the year, and up to September some 2.3 million acres of forest and grassland have burned, according to the latest tally by the office of Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The figures take on additional import when compared with those of last year, given that in all of 2019 fewer than 5,000 fires that burned 118,000 acres, were registered in the state.

“CLIMATE. CHANGE. IS. REAL,” added Newsom in sharing fire data on his official Twitter account.

The big fear among the authorities is that the burned-over territory will continue to increase during the so-called fire season in October and November given the extraordinarily dry conditions.

The prospects for the coming days, according to the National Weather Service, are not good due to three main reasons: the record high temperatures in recent days, the ongoing extremely dry conditions and the current heavy winds.

Specifically, the NWS is warning of strong “Diablo” winds, which are very hot and dry and which normally occur in the San Francisco Bay area and at other spots in Northern California during this time period each year.

These weather conditions not only foster new fires, but also cause “great difficulty” for firefighters as they try to contain the fires, as in the case of the Bear Fire, which is affecting Butte and Yuba Counties, some 130 kilometers (81 miles) north of the state capital, Sacramento.

Strong winds will continue to create “dangerous and life-threatening” fire weather conditions across the region, said the NWS, adding that “Fires that develop will likely spread rapidly and could exhibit dangerous fire behavior.”

The fires are also affecting Southern California in areas relatively close to Los Angeles and San Diego.

This is the case with the forest fire in the Los Padres National Forest, which has injured 14 firefighters and heavy machinery operators, one of them seriously, the US Forest Service reported on Wednesday.

The fire, dubbed the Dolan Fire by authorities, has burned more than 72,500 acres since it erupted on Aug. 18 and at present it is only 40 percent contained with the high temperatures last weekend serving to help fuel the blaze.

The delicate situation across most of California forced the Forest Service on Monday to order the closure of several national park or forest areas, namely: Stanislaus, Sierra, Sequoia, Inyo, Los Padres, Angeles, San Bernardino and Cleveland.

The closures include campgrounds, day use areas, forested areas and all forest pathways or hiking trails, and the restrictions in effect now have been raised to prohibit all types of ignition, including propane stoves and all fuels, the authorities said in a statement.

No reopening date for these national forests has been announced, and the situation will be evaluated regularly in accord with prevailing weather conditions.

Of all the currently active fires, the Sierra Nevada Fire is the one that has spread the fastest in recent hours, burning some 60 homes in the tiny town of Big Creek and forcing authorities to completely evacuate the 2,500 people living in Auberry.

In addition, the fires on Sunday forced the helicopter evacuation of more than 200 people who were staying in the popular camping zone known as Mammoth Pool.

Since early on Friday, the Creek fire – as the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) has dubbed it – has already burned 165,000 acres and the 10 contingents of firefighters working to control it still have not managed to make much headway against the blaze.

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