Aug 16, 2016

California is in flames right now, with fires fueled by historic drought

California
USA
by
Darryl Fears
,
Washington Post
A truck burns on Main Street in the town of Lower Lake, Calif. on Sunday. Photo: Josh Edelson, AP
A truck burns on Main Street in the town of Lower Lake, Calif. on Sunday. Photo: Josh Edelson, AP

[California] has nine active wildfires as large as 25 acres or more, including the Clayton fire that forced nearly 1,500 residents to flee their homes after it erupted Saturday in dry conditions created by the state’s extreme drought. On Sunday the blaze doubled in size.

More than 3,800 fires have scorched over 112,900 acres of state land since January. That’s 20 percent more fires than at this point last year, and well above the state’s five-year average of 3,200 fires and 85,900 acres for the same time span. Wildfires are also charring federally owned land in the state. Add those in, and the number of fires shoots to 4,600 with more than 306,000 acres burnt in 2016, according to Cal Fire.

As of Monday, the federal National Interagency Fire Center showed California leading the fire-prone West in the number, size and intensity of wildfires. In June, the U.S. Forest Service estimated that 26 million trees had died in six counties across 760,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada mountains that run along California’s spine — bringing the number of dead trees, which are fuel for fire, to 66 million during four years of drought. The service blames heat, dryness and a greedy little beetle for the devastation.

Major wildfires are raging across much of the West, too, including in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Wyoming and Texas