The state of California hit a grim milestone over the Labor Day weekend as the current wildfire season became the worst in recorded history when measured by the amount of land that has burned. At least 22 fires are now currently burning.
Record-breaking Wildfire Season Rages On: As of Sunday, over 2,000,000 acres have burned across California this year alone. To put this size and scope into perspective, this is equivalent to the landmass of 10 New York Cities. What is particularly concerning is that we are only in the month of September. October and November generally see wildfires across the region. Read on to find out more details.
According to Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue, at least 224 people had to be rescued from the Mammoth Pool Reservoir area on Sunday when the flames blocked the only road leading out of this busy recreation site. Pogue said that the trapped individuals were instructed to shelter in place while rescuers worked to extract them from the site. He believes that they found everyone, however, officials are still canvassing the area looking for people who still may be stranded. While there were no fatalities, approximately 20 individuals needed to seek medical treatment for injuries such as burns and broken bones. A few of the injured required the use of stretchers to be taken out of the area.
Overnight on Monday, at least 13 more people were rescued from the encroaching flames. Another helicopter was sent out early Tuesday morning to search for additional trapped visitors.
Origins of Creek Fire: This fire started on Friday evening in the Sierra National Forest, quickly exploding and tearing through the region. The first flames were spotted in the woods just south of Yosemite National Park. It only took one day for the inferno to swallow up 36,000 acres. The acreage burned grew to 45,000 by Sunday morning. Investigators are still working to determine the cause of this blaze. By Tuesday morning, the growth had exploded to over 135,000 acres burned.
Battling the Blaze: The bad news is that the Creek Fire is 0% contained as of early Tuesday. Because of the encroaching flames, residents in the area of Shaver Lake were ordered to evacuate by the Fresno County Sheriff. The fire has also forced the evacuations of residents in some parts of Madera and Fresno counties. According to the Forest Service, 450 firefighters, three helicopters, and three air tankers have been deployed to attempt to contain the fire. There has been heavy structural damage as a result of the fire. However, because the flames are still raging, authorities have not been able to fully assess the damage.
El Dorado Fire Sparked by Gender Reveal Party: Meanwhile, authorities are now blaming pyrotechnics used during a gender reveal party for igniting a blaze in the San Bernardino Valley of Southern California. The El Dorado Fire has already consumed over 10,000 acres since getting its start on Saturday morning. After noticing the spark of flames ignited by the pyrotechnic device, the family called authorities and tried to extinguish the fire. No charges have been filed yet in the incident.
Residents in Mountain Home Village, Oak Glen, North Bench Yucaipa, and Forest Falls are now under a mandatory evacuation order. The Yucaipa Community Center is being used as an evacuation facility.
Going Against the Blaze: According to Cal Fire, more than 500 firefighters, 60 fire engines, and four helicopters have been dispatched to the scene. Officials are going increasingly worried that the hot weather, gusty winds, and low humidity will continue to fuel the blaze as firefighters race to control the fire. Located approximately 70 miles east of Los Angeles, the fire was only 16% contained as of Tuesday morning.
Firefighters are growing increasingly concerned about the Red Flag Santa Ana Wind event starting at noon Tuesday and lasting through Wednesday. The only bit of good news is there have been no injuries or structure damage reported.
Park Closures: Outdoor recreation enthusiasts were disappointed when some of the California’s most popular parks were fully or partially closed over the holiday weekend. The closures affected Stanislaus National Forest, Cleveland National Forest, Sierra National Forest, Angeles National Forest, Sequoia National Forest, San Bernardino National ForestInyo National Forest, and Los Padres National Forest.
Fires Exasperated by Searing Heat: The weather did not do firefighters any favors this weekend. The majority of the state was gripped by record-setting heat that only served to exasperate the raging fires. The National Weather Service (NWS) issued an excessive heat warning for much of the state. High temperatures have been ranging from 107 to 112 degrees. A high of 121 degrees was recorded in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley on Sunday.
In anticipation of the heat, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency last Thursday. In addition, Newsom obtained a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration in an effort to mobilize the state’s emergency response. The governor also urged residents of the Golden State to keep their home thermostats set no lower than 78 degrees in order to conserve energy and prevent blackouts.