Strong Winds, Arid Weather Fueling Fires in CA, AZ, and NV

Mangum Fire burning in the Kaibab National Forest    Photo: Kaibab NF via Twitter

With relative humidity as low as 5% (wow), strong winds, temps over 100 degrees in places like Phoenix, and little rain recently, the desert Southwest is facing the “perfect” conditions for wildfires and they are getting them.  The Washington Post reports that “wildfires are raging” in the region and a rash of brush fires has broken out in southern California on Monday, causing evacuations, and that follows numerous fires over last weekend near Phoenix and Tuscon.  Against the backdrop of these fires was a courtroom in San Francisco yesterday, where the CEO of PG&E pled guilty to each of the 81 individual counts of criminal manslaughter against the company for the deaths of the Camp Fire in 2018.

Why This Matters:  PG&E is to blame for the Camp Fire and its CEO did what he should in standing up in Court — this is what it means to be accountable.  But, when it comes to the latest round of fires and those in the future, and even the conditions that made the Camp Fire so deadly, the responsibility is on all of us.  Climate change is not just uncomfortable and inconvenient.  It is deadly, and too often those who can least impact it are the ones who suffer the most from it.  Like the coronavirus victims as the disease rages in Arizona right now.

The Victims of the Camp Fire Each Had a Story

It is heartbreaking to think of the Camp Fire victims — many of them trapped in their homes and literally unable to escape.  Each victim’s name was read aloud and a picture of them projected on a wall, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.  Most of the victims were elderly or disabled in some way and suffered horribly — the tragedy clear because their deaths were preventable.  From the Chronicle:

CEO Bill Johnson: “Guilty, Your Honor.”

The Judge:  “TK Huff, 71, face-down in his yard, having crawled 10 feet from his wheelchair. David Young, 69, who crashed his minivan into a tree while evacuating, only to burn alive with two pets in the cargo area. Rose Farrell, 99, next to her wheelchair on the front porch. Three generations of Heffern women — Ishka, 20, Christina, 40, Matilde, 68 — in their bathtub. Barbara Coulson, 71, and her sister Shirley Haley, 67, their arms wrapped around each other at their home on Heavenly Place.”

CEO Bill Johnson: “Guilty, Your Honor.”

Southwest Fires This Year

Phoenix seemed to be the “hotspot” this week, with evacuations underway near the “Bush Fire” northeast of the city that had already burned 64,513 acres in the Tonto National Forest of Arizona and was not at all contained as of early yesterday.  According to The Post, additional fires continued to burn east of Phoenix, where the Sawtooth Fire was nearing 25,000 acres but increasingly under control with 81 percent containment. And the North Rim of the Grand Canyon has been closed due to a huge fire there, with more than 500 firefighters continue to combat the blaze, which was only 3 percent contained late Tuesday morning.  June is peak fire season in Arizona, and right now coronavirus cases are also spiking, making it doubly difficult for local officials.

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