Fire Crew Struggle to Contain California’s 25 Major Wildfires

The day after 200 people had to be air rescued by the National Guard from an oncoming wildfire in California, the LA Times reported that “helicopter crews braved dangerous smoke and flames Tuesday to reach more than 100 hikers, campers and other people stranded in remote locations of the Sierra Nevada by the destructive Creek fire.”

The Dolan fire was so fast-moving that 14 firefighters were forced to create emergency shelters as flames overtook them and destroyed the Nacimiento Station in the Los Padres National Forest. According to AP, they suffered from burns and smoke inhalation, and three were flown to a hospital in Fresno, where one was in critical condition.

Nearly half of California’s national forests were forced to close amid extreme heat and fire conditions. This includes Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove which includes more than 500 mature giant sequoias spread over 250 acres. Jonathan Groveman, spokesman for U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region explained that this is the first time in decades that entire forests in the state have been closed due to wildfires. 

Why This Matters: As of Tuesday morning, there were 25 major fires burning across the state. As UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain said in a tweet, the wildfire situation has “escalated to the point that I can no longer keep track of the countless massive, fast-moving, and potentially very dangerous fires. The geographic scale and intensity of what is transpiring is truly jarring.”

Spread Too Thin: Thom Porter, chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, called the wildfire situation “dire.” At least 2 new fires erupted yesterday and as Porter explained to CNN about his crews, “We have fires burning in the north part of the state all the way down to the Mexican border, about 800 miles between the furthest distant fires, so we’re stretched across the landscape.”

The bottom line: this wildfire season could worsen and resources to fight the fires are already stretched thinner than ever before. Couple that with the resources needed to fight massive blazes in neighboring Oregon and Washington and Western states will be competing for precious firefighting resources.

Take a look at what the West’s blazes looked like yesterday from NOAA’s satellite:

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