AmericaWildfires are still raging in California today
Dubbed the “Oak Fire,” the blaze is still spreading across the region, aided by a prolonged drought that has left dead, highly flammable trees in its path.
More than 2,500 firefighters from 17 helicopters were battling flames Monday from an “explosive” wildfire that spread “rapidly” through the forested mountains of central California near famed Yosemite National Park.
A fire, dubbed the “Oak Fire,” broke out Friday Near the small town of Midpines, the latest report on Monday evening already covered about 7,000 hectares of vegetation. Already the largest California wildfire of the season, “it’s moving very quickly and the window of response to evacuate people is limited,” California fire official John Heggie explained to CNN. According to the expert, the speed of progress and the behavior of this fire is “truly unprecedented”.
“The flames were up to 30 meters high,” David Lee, an evacuee, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper. A 55-year-old man was among the first to be evacuated on Friday and believes his home was engulfed in flames. “He was heading straight for us. This fire is the fastest fire I’ve ever seen,” Mr. Lee added.
The “Oak Fire” was only 16% contained on Tuesday after destroying a dozen buildings, but emergency services fear the toll could rise quickly. The fire threatens a few thousand homes in small rural towns in Mariposa County, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, where several thousand people were under evacuation orders. Described as a “megafire” by John Heggie, the blaze is fueled by dead trees and wilted brush, especially in a region that, like much of California, has experienced a long drought. “It’s a direct result of climate change,” the fire chief said. “You can’t have ten years of drought in California and expect things not to change.”
Chronic droughts and heat waves
Fire department spokesman Jonathan Pearce said low humidity and high temperatures fueled the fire. “We have a lot of tree ‘death’ in Mariposa County, so there’s a lot of dead trees standing, a lot of dead trees on the ground,” he added. About 3,000 people have been evacuated so far, officials said.
Yosemite Park, one of the world’s most famous parks, was devastated by a fire in mid-July, the flames of which threatened its giant sequoias. These trees have generally been preserved for several millennia.
The American West has already experienced wildfires of exceptional size and intensity in recent years, along with a significantly longer fire season, a phenomenon scientists attribute mainly to climate change.
“The Oak Fire” was one of the more dramatic manifestations of the heat wave that hit the United States this weekend. According to forecasts, near the fire, temperatures should reach 37 ° C on Monday. Similar or higher temperatures are still expected in the central United States (Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas) and the northwest coast of the country, which is generally cooler and more humid, is not excluded. The weather service has issued a high heat warning for Seattle this week, where records could be broken on Tuesday. The city is very unaccustomed to the heat, and many homes do not have air conditioning, which is very rare in America.
In June 2021, the region experienced a historic heat peak, with temperatures reaching 47 °C in parts of the northwestern United States and neighboring Canada. Officials have said that hundreds of people have died due to extreme heat in the region.
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