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Raging Fires In Northern California Have Turned Whole Town Orange, All Thanks To Climate Change

Indiatimes logo Indiatimes 21-01-2021 Gursharan Bhalla
a sunset over a fire hydrant © Provided by Indiatimes

High winds, dry vegetation and unseasonably warm weather fueled several wildfires in Northern California as hundreds of residents were forced to evacuate, state fire officials said. 

Fire crews were working on multiple fronts to contain at least seven active fires that ignited within the CZU Complex Fire burn area in Santa Cruz County. Several nearby neighborhoods were evacuated and firefighters struggled to gain access because of hazardous tree conditions from the previous blaze, according to state fire officials. 

The Complex Fire that has triggered the risk of wildfires and toppling trees started on Aug 16 after a barrage of lightning bolt strikes. Separate fires merged into a complex of blazes that charred more than 135 square miles across San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, NBC Bay Area reported. One person died.

a sunset over a fire hydrant: AP © Provided by Indiatimes AP

More than a quarter million lost power  

More than a quarter million customers lost power during the height of the windstorm, which helped fan the flames of several new wildfires in the Golden State at a time of year when it would typically be too wet to spark such blazes. While the “very strong and damaging northeast to east wind event” is tapering down, fire crews have been tasked with extinguishing a number of new fire starts across the state.

 

It’s unusual to see “critical” fire weather this time of year, but a combination of offshore winds gusting over 60 mph and relative humidities as low as 12 percent acted as a breeding ground for flames, especially in Southern California.

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The greater Los Angeles metro area was under a wind advisory on Wednesday, with areas including Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo under a red flag warning. That’s where “rapid fire spread, long range spotting, and extreme fire behavior which would threaten life and property” were possible if a fire were to ignite Wednesday. 

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"We responded to many more fires overnight, but most have been contained and controlled," Santa Cruz fire officials said in a statement posted on Facebook. "We have other smaller fires within the unit, but these listed are the top priority." 

Unseasonal fires due to climate change

Officials have not determined what sparked Tuesday's fires. "This is the reality we've been living and it's one we've been going through for quite a few years now," said Issac Sanchez, Cal Fire battalion chief. 

"We've noticed that the fire year gets extended further into the winter than it ever has before and it gets started earlier in the spring than it ever has before and that's the situation that we're sitting in right now." 

Historically, peak fire season runs from July through October but climate change and forest mismanagement have contributed to hotter and deadlier fires that burn longer into the year.

a large waterfall: ESA © Provided by Indiatimes ESA

Fire weather warning in place

"We don't prepare for a fire season anymore," Sanchez said. "We prepare for a fire year." 

Meanwhile above average temperatures have been recorded in Southern California, which saw multiple days in the high 80s last week. The National Weather Service also recorded record-high temperatures in San Francisco and Oakland on Monday with temperatures in the 70s across most of the region. 

A fire weather warning is also in effect for parts of Southern California due to gusty winds and low humidity through Tuesday evening. In Bakersfield, the Wolf Fire rapidly burned more than 75 acres in the Wind Wolves Preserve nature conservancy Tuesday afternoon, threatening wildlife, including foxes and hares, and the plants needed to sustain them.

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