One of the largest fires in its history continued to ravage California on Sunday, driving tens of thousands of people from their homes as thunderstorms raise fears of new fires.
Several thousand lightning strikes in recent days have triggered fires that cover the region with a thick layer of smoke. This week, nearly 400,000 hectares burned in the western state of the United States, according to Calfire, the California firefighting agency. “More thunderstorms are expected“Sunday and by Tuesday, Calfire warned on Twitter.”Everyone should stay alert and have an escape plan“.
“Dry thunderstorms could trigger new forest fires this weekend“, favored by”severe drought“affecting California, the National Weather Service confirmed.”The western United States and the Great Plains are covered in a huge layer of smoke from the ongoing fires, which stretches from the Rockies to the West Coast“. Some 2,600 firefighters are fighting the two most important fires, out of the 13,700 mobilized on”the twenty big fires“, according to Calfire.
“Everyone is exhausted”
“If you don’t believe in climate change, come to CaliforniaState Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted. He posted on his account a dramatic photo of huge clouds of smoke rising from the fires, which “is just a small part of the nearly 600 fires we’re fighting this week“. The Napa and Sonoma Valley wineries, which were still recovering from fires of previous years, are at risk.”Most firefighters have been on the job for 72 hours, and everyone is exhaustedJim Wood, a local politician from the Sonoma Valley, told the Los Angeles Times.
The two main hearths, nicknamed the “SCU Lightning Complex” and the “LNU Lightning Complex”, reduced to ashes 268,000 hectares and more than 840 buildings. The first had burned 137,000 hectares early Sunday, and the second 131,000 hectares, making it respectively the second and third largest fires in California history. The firefighters controlled 10% and 15% respectively.
485,600 hectares devoured by flames
According to the Los Angeles Times, more than 485,600 hectares have been devoured by flames in the past month, much more than the 104,813 hectares burned over the whole of last year. “A staggering toll so early in the fire season“Deplores the daily. For the moment, five deaths are to be attributed to the latest fires. Four bodies were found Thursday, including three in a destroyed house in a rural area of Napa County. But many residents have neglected the orders. evacuation. “At least if we stay here we know exactly what’s going onNapa resident John Newman, 68, told the San Francisco Chronicle in a lounge chair outside his house.The family is worried, but it’s a little different when you’re there.“
Natural parks have also been devastated. Big Basin Redwoods Park, home to giant sequoias some over 500 years old, announced that it had been “severely affected“and that some of its historic buildings had been destroyed by fire. Some 119,000 people were evacuated, many of whom are struggling to find shelter and are reluctant to go to the shelters set up by the authorities, fearing that they will be contaminated with Covid-19.
In some counties south of San Francisco, evacuees fleeing the flames chose to sleep in campers parked along the Pacific Ocean. The tourists were asked to leave to make way for them. Other US states, including Oregon, New Mexico, and Texas, have sent in firefighters, as well as monitoring and firefighting equipment. Aid is welcome but insufficient in the face of the scale of the disaster, for Governor Newsom, who appealed to Canada and Australia for help because they have, according to him, “the best firefighters in the world“.