Wednesday, September 09, 2020 by Virgilio Marin
This year’s wildfire season is the worst in California history after burning more than two million acres of land. That’s the biggest area of burnt land within the same period of time. And the state has just entered the peak of the wildfire season, said officials.
Two of the largest wildfires in state history are burning in the San Francisco Bay Area while the largest active wildfire, Creek Fire, is burning a portion of the Sierra National Park in central California. Creek Fire is zero percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection or Cal Fire.
Red Flag Warnings remain in place in various state counties as officials press the alarm on the ongoing fire crisis. These include most of Northern California and portions of the Bay Area. The Forest Park Service also announced on Monday that it would be closing national parks and campgrounds in the southern half of the state.
Meanwhile, officials worry that the strong winds recorded this week are aggravating the fires. The winds arrive at the heels of the heatwave over the Labor Day weekend, which saw temperatures rise and caused electricity use to skyrocket.
Although no power outage has been recorded, several customers of the Pacific Gas & Electric Company, the state’s largest power provider, lost electricity on Monday due to a power shutoff that was enforced as a fire preventative measure.
Officials do not expect the wildfires to die down soon as the wildfire season has a long way to go.
Governor Gavin Newsom addressed the public on Tuesday and spoke about the fire crisis, describing this year’s wildfires as “historic.”
“Historic is a term we seemingly often use here in the state of California,” said Newsom, “but these numbers bear fruit to that assertion, that this is historic, this is the largest fire season we’ve had in terms of total acreage.”
The record was previously held by the 2018 wildfires that wreaked 1.96 million acres of land over the same period of time.
Cal Fire spokesperson Lynne Tolmachoff was alarmed by the fact that the wildfires broke the record this early. She said that the worst fires occur in September and October because high winds are common and vegetation has just dried out from the recent summer. (Related: Dry lightning worsens wildfires in the West.)
Meanwhile, the Forest Park Service had to shut down eight national forests and campgrounds in the southern half of the state. Regional forester Randy Moore said the decision to close them down is re-evaluated daily. However, things are not looking up as current conditions remain dangerous and prone to start new fires.
“Existing fires are displaying extreme fire behavior, new fire starts are likely, weather conditions are worsening,” said Moore.
Among the forests closed down is the Sierra National Forest. The announcement came as Creek Fire grew to more than 150,000 acres since it started on September 4. Evacuation orders were issued to residents living in certain areas of Madera County while evacuation warnings were put in place for areas of Fresno County.
Cal Fire reported that 82 structures, including residential homes and commercial establishments, went down the ground due to Creek Fire. The more than 1,000 firefighters deployed in the area have yet to contain a single portion of the fires. They are among the 14,000 firefighters managing the 25 major wildfires in California, which include the SCU Lightning Complex and the LNU Lightning Complex, two of the three largest wildfires in California history. They are 95 and 91 percent contained, respectively. (Related: Firefighters and responders brace for more fires spreading across California.)
Meanwhile, the PG&E warned customers that a “Public Safety Power Shutoff” may have to be enforced in the middle of the week. The utility group implements intentional safety blackouts in order to reduce wildfire risk as its electricity lines and other equipment could spark new fires.
Several homes across 22 counties in northern and central California went dark in response to strong offshore winds. Some areas remain without power, although electricity is expected to be back on Wednesday night after the winds subside and power lines are inspected, according to the PG&E.
Disaster.news has more on California’s ongoing wildfires.
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