BFF-93 California scorched by raging wildfires the size of LA

ZCZC

BFF-93

US-ENVIRONMENT-FIRE

California scorched by raging wildfires the size of LA

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug 7, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Tens of thousands of firefighters
on Tuesday were battling relentless flames ripping across California, as the
death toll from a series of infernos that first erupted last month hit 11.

The raging Mendocino Complex fire comprised of twin blazes in the western
state’s north ravaged more than 290,000 acres (117,359 hectares) —
approximately the size of sprawling Los Angeles — in less than two weeks,
becoming California’s largest wildfire ever recorded since bookkeeping began
a century ago.

Some 14,000 firefighers including reinforcements from as far as Australia
and New Zealand have arrived to combat the firestorm devouring broad swaths
of the state.

The River Fire of the Mendocino Complex is 78 percent contained, having
burned 48,920 acres — but its partner blaze the Ranch Fire has grown to
241,772 acres and is just 20 percent contained.

Limited access, heavy fuel loads, low fuel and high temperatures were all
impeding firefighters’ efforts to rein in the conflagration, the state’s
CalFire authority said.

Helicopters and airplanes, including two massive DC-10s and a 747 jumbo
jet, were supporting firefighters by dousing the flames with water.

Two people have died in the inferno, taking to 11 the number of people
killed by major fires that are becoming something of a constant in the fire-
prone state.

The Carr Fire to the north has meanwhile engulfed 167,113 acres since
igniting July 23 and killing seven people thus far.

Firefighters have managed to get it 47 percent contained, challenged by
varying wind patterns and rough terrain that includes steep drainages.

Another major fire, Ferguson, has left two dead and forced the closure of
part of the Yosemite national park, and is currently only 38 percent
contained.

Several thousand people have been evacuated, although some have been given
permission in recent days to return to their homes.

The Mendocino Complex is the second fire to break records in California in
as many years, following the Thomas Fire in December 2017 that destroyed
281,893 acres.

“This is part of a trend — a new normal — that we got to deal with,” the
state’s governor Jerry Brown told journalists of the “horrific” wildfires.

– Climate change effects –

In the state’s south near San Diego hundreds of personnel were deploying to
tackle the fast-moving Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest.

After igniting in a relatively small area on Monday afternoon it mushroomed
to 4,000 acres and was not contained at all as of Tuesday morning, according
to the US Forest Service.

Two other national forests in the counties of Los Angeles and Ventura were
on high alert because of searing temperatures, strong winds and parched
vegetation.

“If fire ignition occurs, conditions are favorable for very rapid fire
spread,” the National Weather Service warned in a statement, saying “extreme
fire behavior” could “threaten life and property.”

On Monday the Pentagon said it would send 200 soliders to assist
firefighters in fending off the flames, many of which have encroached on
federal lands.

In a series of eyebrow-raising tweets President Donald Trump meanwhile
suggested environmental laws — rather than climate change — was to blame
for the spike in wildfires devastating parts of the west.

“California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad
environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available
water to be properly utilized,” he said Monday. “It is being diverted into
the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!”

The Republican president infuriated much of the international community
last year when he withdrew from the Paris climate change pact, intended to
combat global warming by reducing emissions.

His missive drew exasperated sighs from many including authorities at
CalFire: “We have plenty of water to fight these wildfires,” Daniel Berlant,
the agency’s assistant deputy director, told The New York Times.

“Let’s be clear: It’s our changing climate that is leading to more severe
and destructive fires.”

BSS/AFP/MRI/2338 hrs