California battles more than 500 fires
Some of California’s largest wildfires in state history are growing larger and more destructive, with no end in sight as emergency response efforts are stretched thin and tens of thousands of people are forced to evacuate their homes.
At least 585 fires have burned more than 900,000 acres, killed five people and forced evacuation orders for more than 119,000 people.
The two major groups of fires — the LNU Lightning Complex in Sonoma, Lake, Napa and Solano counties and the SCU Lightning Complex in Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties — are the second and fourth biggest fires in state history, according to Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency.
Another blaze, called the CZU Lightning Fire in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, has forced evacuations of more than 64,000 people.
The fire near Vacaville, known as the Hennessey Fire, part of the LNU Lightning Complex, has burned down houses and killed a Pacific Gas & Electric worker who was helping the response to the blazes.
The fires have been the worst in the northern and central regions of California and are expected to expand this weekend due to high heat and winds that will exacerbate the spread of flames.
The state’s fire season is getting longer and more destructive every year. Human-caused climate change is driving more frequent and severe heat waves and larger wildfires across the Western U.S.
“The hots are getting hotter, the drys are getting drier,” Gov. Gavin Newsom recently said in a video addressing the Democratic National Convention.
“Climate change is real. If you are in denial about climate change, come to California,” Newsom said.
A stifling heat wave and intense thunder storms caused more than 20,000 lightning strikes in the state, sparking a good portion of the fires and fire complexes.
The blazes are releasing a tremendous amount of smoke and pollution into the area while the state grapples with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The heat wave has driven temperatures throughout the week above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and has prompted rolling blackouts as the demand for electricity and air conditioning is high.
The smoke from the fires has created a dangerous health situation, especially for those vulnerable to developing respiratory infections, as lower air quality can weaken the immune system.
Studies show coronavirus patients in areas with high levels of air pollution are more likely to die from Covid-19.
The governor, stretched thin on emergency response crews to battle the fires, has called on the California National Guard, deployed almost 12,000 firefighters statewide and requested help from many states.
Ten states have sent fire crews, engines and aircraft to help contain the blazes, Newsom said.
Emergency response preparation for California’s fire season was already stalled in April when the coronavirus infected firefighters and raised fears of virus outbreaks at firefighter base camps.
The coronavirus now threatens further infections at evacuation shelters and crowded base camps where firefighters live after working long hours fighting the blazes.
More than a hundred thousand Californians have bought a gun since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, a new report has found, in a surge of gun sales that has experts worried about the risk of suicide and deadly instances of domestic violence.
President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, on Monday offered a striking split screen on the role of climate change in raging wildfires on the West Coast, with each staking out dramatically different positions on what has caused the blazes that have consumed vast amounts of acreage in California in recent weeks.
Wildfires raged unchecked across parts of the western U.S. on Wednesday amid gusty and dry conditions, but forecasters said some weather relief was in sight that could help firefighters overwhelmed by the blazes.
Donald Trump got a first-hand look on Saturday at hurricane damage to south-west Louisiana, two days after Hurricane Laura roared in off the Gulf of Mexico with winds up to 150mph, killing at least 15 people, knocking out power and causing extensive flooding and lack of running water across several towns.