California Wildfires broke out and spread strongly – Consequences of world climate change?
While wildfires are a natural part of California’s landscape, the fire season in California and across the West is starting earlier and ending later each year. Climate change is considered a key driver of this trend. Warmer spring and summer temperatures, reduced snowpack, and earlier spring snowmelt create longer and more intense dry seasons that increase moisture stress on vegetation and make forests more susceptible to severe wildfire. The length of fire season is estimated to have increased by 75 days across the Sierras and seems to correspond with an increase in the extent of forest fires across the state.
The 2021 California wildfire season is an ongoing series of wildfires that have burned across the state of California. The California wildfire 2021 has become the largest in the US as the blaze has spread over an area larger than the city of Los Angeles. Five people have gone missing and thousands have had to flee their homes. As of October 27, 2021, a total of 8,239 fires have been recorded, burning 2,495,889 acres (1,010,050 ha) across the state. At least 3,629 buildings have been destroyed by the wildfires, and at least seven firefighters and two civilians have been injured battling the fires.
The Dixie forest fire burned the mountain town of Greenville, California, USA on the evening of August 4 (local time), leaving much of the town to ashes. The Dixie Fire has been going on for the past three weeks and is considered the largest wildfire in California in 2021, affecting an area of 1,127 km² and burning dozens of homes. About 5,000 firefighters saved some houses from the fire, controlling about a third of the fire area.
On August 5, the Dixie Fire became the sixth-largest fire in California history. Four of the other five largest wildfires in the state were in 2020. Meanwhile, nearby Lassen Volcano National Park was closed to all visitors because of wildfires.
The Dixie Fire is just one of many raging wildfires across the American West. In the state of California, about 40 homes and other structures burned down this week amid the raging River Fire. The River Fire broke out on August 4 near Colfax. Thousands of people are being evacuated in Placer and Nevada counties.
About 240 kilometers west of the Dixie Fire, the McFarland Fire, triggered by lightning, threatened remote homes along the Trinity River in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The fire was extinguished only 5% after burning dry vegetation.
The Caldor fire in El Dorado, Amador, and Alpine counties burned almost 222,000 acres and destroyed 1,003 structures, with another 81 structures damaged. Both the Dixie and Caldor wildfires feature in the top-20 most destructive California wildfires on record.
The fire, called Alisal, started on October 11 afternoon near Alisal Resevoir Lake, north of US Highway 101, along with Santa Barbara County, and spread quickly due to strong winds. Immediately after the fire broke out, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors declared a local state of emergency and ordered the evacuation of people.
Inciweb quoted local officials as saying more than 600 firefighters were mobilized to prevent the spread of the fire, which is believed to be threatening at least 100 structures. However, by November 12, the fire department had only extinguished 5% of the fire area.
In the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park, ancient Sequoia trees, the Giant Forest Museum, and other structures have been enclosed to protect from potential wildfires. According to a spokesman for the National Forest, this is home to the General Sherman tree – the largest Sequoia tree on Earth. This giant tree has a base diameter of more than 11m and a height of 83m, about the same height as the dome on the east facade of the Capitol building in Washington D.C.
California wildfire season is not over despite heavy rains
After months of living with the feeling we were surrounded by drought-cured kindling a mere spark away from disaster, last weekend’s record-setting rainstorm brought with it the sense we had turned a corner on wildfire season. Some of the fires in the East have been contained, but the fires in the South are still at risk. “California wildfire season is not over despite heavy rains”, fire officials said.
The firefighters are preparing for the difficult days ahead. Extreme weather conditions such as high temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds in the evening will continue to pose a threat to rapidly spreading fires. Trees, grass, and vegetation are so dry that “if an ember hits the ground, a new fire is guaranteed”.
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Some comments from those paying attention to this wildfire season in 2021:
Nate Mook: “Something not talked about enough: the trauma we face from climate disasters. I’ve seen hardened firefighters broken down after hurricanes, families with nothing left. We need to invest not just in rebuilding buildings—but also the people who inhabit them.”
#7628: “There are trees, many of them still charred. A visible reminder that the destruction of a wildfire hurts — that here, it still hurts.”
RLS Klima: “The climate crisis isn’t just about extreme weather. It’s about people. As Western media focuses on wildfires in California or Australia or flooding in Europe, climate-related catastrophes are ravaging communities across the Global South, but receive very little coverage.”
Johanna Wagstaffe: “In a finding that scientists believed was still decades away from becoming reality, California researchers say that climate change is now the overwhelming cause of conditions driving extreme wildfire behavior in the western United States”
Senator Dianne Feinstein: “More proof that climate change is the driving force behind the historic, record-breaking wildfires we’ve seen in California over the last few years. This is an existential crisis that requires significant investment to address the root causes of climate change.”
DrWallkick: “California is having a freakishly normal fall and I’m alarmed and scared by it. I was walking back from the bakery and it was cloudy and the sidewalk was covered in leaves and I didn’t get an alarm about wildfires, like, what is this”
Jeri Ann Eakin: “This is something that will help those who lost so much in the northern California wildfires last summer. My own hometown of Vacaville suffered greatly due to the LNUComplexFire. Our neighborhood was in the middle of a mandatory evacuation but it was lifted!”
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