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Found 4 results

  1. Wildfire in US

    A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire in an area of combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside area.Other names such as brush fire, bush fire, forest fire, desert fire, grass fire, hill fire, peat fire, vegetation fire, and veldfire may be used to describe the same phenomenon depending on the type of vegetation being burned, and the regional variant of English being used. A wildfire differs from other fires by its extensive size, the speed at which it can spread out from its original source, its potential to change direction unexpectedly, and its ability to jump gaps such as roads, rivers and fire breaks. Wildfires are characterized in terms of the cause of ignition, their physical properties such as speed of propagation, the combustible material present, and the effect of weather on the fire. 2007 California wildfires Each wildfire season in California seems to top the last, but the 2007 wildfires are especially notable for leading to the largest evacuation in California history. In total, the fires displaced nearly 1 million people and razed at least 1,500 homes in the San Diego area alone. The area covered by the various blazes was massive: more than 500,000 acres stretching from Santa Barbara County all the way to the U.S.-Mexico border.
  2. As California continues to endure historic drought conditions, this and strong Santa Ana winds are two factors contributing to vicious and more frequent wildfires. Dry conditions are expected to continue this week, and in the southern part of the state, the National Weather Service has predicted conditions that will cause fires to quickly grow out of control. One such brushfire occurred on Apr. 18, forcing mandatory evacuations near LA and having scorched 1,020 acres by Apr. 20, when it was 55 percent contained. And the worst, experts say, could be yet to come. The Apr. 18 incident was the result of an unattended cooking fire, and was, of course, exacerbated by the arid conditions, growing from 30 to 175 acres in just three hours. Even as evacuation orders have been lifted and the wildfire is now 60 percent contained, heavy, low-lying smoke is still expected to cling to surrounding areas throughout the early part of this week, causing potential visibility and breathing issues on roadways, according to CalFire. Fires like this are a problem, said meteorologist Brett Rathbun, who remarked, "The excessive drought across California can cause fires to spark even easier because the ground is so dry and lacks moisture." "We don't know when the drought will end," said Felicia Marcus, chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board. "Californians need to step up. We don't even know if it will rain much in the next year." After four years of steadily worsening drought, as climate change continues to rear its ugly head, it's time for Californians to "make real lifestyle changes," which means, above all, adhering to water restrictions. But even such measures won't stop the problem of wildfires, especially if conditions continue to become drier. And according to Benjamin Cook, a climatologist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, that's exactly what's going to happen. He said, "Climate change is going to lead to overall much drier conditions toward the end of the 21st century than anything we've seen in probably the last 1,000 years." And rain won't save us, added Noah Diffenbaugh, a climatologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. That's because the hotter weather means whatever water falls to the ground is going to evaporate that much more quickly. "We're on the cusp in California of having every year be a warm year, which means that when low precipitation does occur, there's going to be a much higher risk that that low precipitation produces drought." "There are a lot of opportunities to deal with these potentially significant droughts in the future," said Cook. "But we just need to be a little bit proactive about it and we need to plan ahead." In particular, said Diffenbaugh, issues like California water policy, water management, and infrastructure need to be changed to accommodate the climate that exists today. Those systems "were built in an old climate," he noted. "And the reality is, we're in a new climate." Howard Kunreuther, professor of operations and information management at Wharton University in Pennsylvania, said this megadrought could serve as a harsh wake-up call to Californians, including Angelinos, who might become more aware of the importance of water conservation. "People forget how water is used in many different ways," he said. "The minute you bring up a point like that, people pay attention, and recognize that the things they do today could be beneficial for things that happen in the future that they hadn't really thought about." Part of the problem, he noted, is that, while another enormous wildfire "is not necessarily going to happen tomorrow, it could happen a few months from now. But it isn't on people's agenda to think about it, and they normally don't think about the water tied into the forest fires." You can "start constructing scenarios as to what could happen," but "how do you get those people to take those scenarios seriously?" "This isn't something that's going to be solved overnight," he concluded. "But taking steps along the lines of conserving [water] will be a way to deal with [the drought]. The more people do that, the more they will benefit."
  3. Wildfires have been blazing on all summer, and the latest of them is occurring in Oregon, near the Columbia River Gorge. Owners of 140 homes have already evacuated, and despite the efforts of 400 firefighters, the flames have continued to spread over five square miles. Meanwhile in northern Idaho, another brushfire has burned across 64 square miles and destroyed five structures. But efforts to combat the blazes may be fruitless, because the money to fight them is running out. Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, said Aug. 5 that the U.S. Forest Service's annual budget for fighting wildfires is rapidly dwindling; in fact, it may run out by the end of the month. The fires, on the other hand, will keep burning. He suggested they were in the midst of a catch-22, as when the Forest Service's funding runs dry, it will need to dip into other projects designed to help prevent future wildfires, in order to put out the ones currently blazing. Specifically, about $400-500 million will be taken away from such projects, putting the future in jeopardy in terms of further disasters. Vilsack, who is lobbying for an extra $615 million for the Forest Service to fight wildfires this year and next, remarked, "When we begin to run out of money, we have to dip into the very programs that will reduce the risk of these wildfires over [a longer period of] time." And those accounts aren't the only ones that suffer; in the past, they have also had to draw from other programs not related to wildfires. Such a transfer occurred in 2012, when the funding for road repairs in Arkansas' Ouachita National Forest was instead used to contend with fires throughout the U.S. The fire in Idaho, called the Big Cougar Fire, is only 15 percent contained, and 200 more structures in its path risk becoming damaged or destroyed unless firefighters can contain it further. Resources are being used while there's still funding for them, and include four helicopters, four fire engines, and three dozers. Isolated thunderstorms are expected, but those are unpredictable; rain could help quell the flames, but lightning could spark an entirely new blaze. One of the reasons the Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture are so hot and bothered over the depletion of yearly wildfire money is due to the likelihood that there will be many more fires. In the past, a depletion of funding by the end of August might have been manageable, but global warming has changed that. Wildfires are now likely to occur much later in the year than August. "The really amazing thing is that we don't just see an increase in one or two regions," said Philip Dennison, a geographer at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. "We're seeing it almost everywhere - in the mountain regions, in the Southwest... That tells us that something bigger is going on, and that thing appears to be climate change." This increases the risk for firefighters as well - even more reason why sufficient funding is necessary. Robert Bonnie, undersecretary for natural resources with the Department of Agriculture, explained, "Fire behavior is more extreme now. We're seeing larger fires. We're seeing fires where we have more houses and people. That makes them more dangerous and more difficult to fight." The money isn't there because the Republican controlled Congress isn't doing anything to put it there, according to a report by U.S. News. A bill to overhaul the way wildfire fighting is funded was introduced by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho - and then promptly abandoned by him. Simpson gave no explanation why. Vicki Minor, executive director of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, a nonprofit group that helps families of firefighters killed in the line of duty, said, "Because of these fires, we lose our watersheds, we lose our hunting ranges, we lose our homes. These fire seasons are not going away, and for them to not fund wildfires... I'm just disgusted with them."
  4. The Golden State is being blackened by the most menacing brushfires in nearly two decades. As climate change continues to rear its ugly head, thousands of places including homes, a university campus, a nuclear plant, and parts of military bases have been evacuated in southern California. Nine fires have already burned more than 10,000 acres, and unfortunately, the blazes have merely gotten off to an early start. Experts believe the fires will worsen and spread more quickly as summer approaches. The fires broke out on May 13, prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for San Diego County. Paul Mendes, police captain of Carlsbad, Calif., remarked, "This is May. This is unbelievable. This is extreme. This has gone from dry conditions to volatile conditions." So far there is one reported fatality, and at least 20 buildings were destroyed in Carlsbad alone, with one burning house visibly exploding from an unknown cause. Santa Ana winds were whipping up and fanning the flames, making the situation direr. Several firenados were observed - devastating flaming cyclones that develop during very intense wildfires. Though those winds have begun to die down now, Mayor Matt Hall warned, "That does not mean they may not pick up again." "A heat wave and tinder-dry brush have created a dynamic, dangerous situation," California fire captain Mike Mohler said. "It's just unfortunately a recipe for a large fire and that's what we're seeing right now." Something of a reprieve, at least, was expected today, according to meteorologist Jon Erdman. He said, "Santa Ana winds, record heat, and low humidity will persist in southern California through Thursday. Beginning Friday, winds will begin to turn onshore, with much cooler 60s and 70s returning to the coast this weekend." In Carlsbad today, however, it is currently still almost 90 degrees. On a more positive note, firefighters are reporting that the fire there is about 50 percent contained - a large uptick from the mere 10 percent two days ago. Some evacuation orders have been lifted. Officials estimated the Carlsbad wildfire alone has caused $18.5 million in damage so far. Another fire near San Marcos is only five percent contained and has produced smoke plumes so large they can be seen from space. Seven more fires are still being fought in other areas. Meanwhile, some 2,300 people across San Diego County are dealing with power outages, according to San Diego Gas and Electric. Gov. Brown stated, "The heat is terrible. The last few years have been the driest in recorded California history. They think they've got this [Carlsbad fire] contained, or are about to have it contained. But they've got other fires all over the place, and most serious of all, California has a fire season that is getting longer. And the most serious fires have occurred in the last decade, so things are getting worse." He said the blazes were undeniably tied to global warming, adding, "Despite what you hear in Washington, climate change is a factor here. It's not about theory. It's not about politics. This is about fires on the ground, people's homes, firefighters. And yes, these conditions are definitely caused by climate change; global warming induced by human activity. So we've got to make changes. But right now in California we are dealing with it and handling it as best we can." San Diego fire chief Javier Mainar said, "It is pretty amazing to see these fires in May. We certainly have seen climate change and the impact of climate change. My understanding is we've seen twice the number of wildfire starts in the state of California as we typically see this time of year." On Thursday, some Carlsbad residents returned to find their homes gone. The fires, and in particular the firenadoes, in many cases demolished and flattened entire houses. "We walked up to our place, and it was like a bomb went off," said resident Anya Bannasch. "I can't even explain just how horrific it was." The fires are an ongoing disaster, and far from over, she said. There are "other families out there that are going through this right now," she added. "There's fires everywhere." This article was first published in People's World by Blake Deppe.