Fresh Wave of Wildfires Grip California, Setting Records

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in California. Image: Withanee Milligan/Forest Service

Nearly a month ago, record-setting heat and extreme weather were responsible for a series of wildfires that are still burning throughout California. Now, another extreme heatwave along with powerful winds have sparked a new wave of fires that have now burned more than 2 million acres in California this year, setting a dismal record.

And as the New York Times reported, one of the fires, a 7,000-acre blaze in San Bernardino County erupted after a family set off a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” at a gender reveal party.

Additionally, over 200 people had to be airlifted out of the Sierra National Forest as a wildfire quickly approached. The California National Guard helicopter crews that performed the rescue have labeled the daring flights as the most dangerous of their careers.

Why This Matters: September and October are the most vulnerable months for California’s wildfire season and already, the state has broken wildfire records. This fire season has also necessitated the need for military assets to rescue civilians from a climate-related disaster. The national guard could become an increasingly essential part of the wildfire response, signaling how serious the climate crisis has become–no one can say that this is some intangible threat.

Go Deeper: Much of the state of California is under a Red Flag warning and Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in 5 counties. And as the Visalia Times Delta wrote, “the combination of extreme heat, wind, dry conditions and limited firefighting resources caused the USDA Forest Service to close many national forests across the Golden State.”

The state is also stretched very thin in its resources to fight this fire:

“Existing fires are displaying extreme fire behavior, new fire starts are likely, weather conditions are worsening, and we simply do not have enough resources to fully fight and contain every fire,” said Randy Moore, regional forester for the Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region.

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