Publication Date August 17, 2016

Fast-Moving Fire Bears Down on Southern California

United States
An air tanker dropped fire retardant on what has been named the Blue Cut wildfire in Lytle Creek, Calif., on Tuesday. About 700 personnel are involved in containment and evacuation efforts, officials say. Photo: Ringo Chiu, Agence France-Presse, Getty Images

California, in the midst of a protracted drought and a heat wave, is ablaze from top to bottom. More than 10,000 firefighters are battling eight large wildfires across the state. But this fire stands out because of its speed and size—and the sheer number of people forced to flee.


“The fire was really exhibiting behavior that we’ve never seen,” said Chon Bribiescas, a spokesman with the U.S. Forest Service. There were rare fire whirls—or large walls of fire—of about 50 to 100 feet, he said. About 1,600 firefighters were battling the Blue Cut blaze.


Glenn Barley, unit chief for San Bernardino with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said these explosive, fast-moving fires have been common this year.

Southern California has long experienced wildfires, but they are happening earlier than normal and burning more intensely due to climate change and the region’s severe drought, said Char Miller, professor of environmental analysis at Pomona College in Pomona, Calif.

“This is the new normal,” Mr. Miller said