Historic record of hectares burned in California in the middle of a heat wave

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The word record is slowly losing its meaning when applied to the fires of recent weeks in California. The total number of hectares burned exceeded 800,000 in the count this Tuesday morning, the record in the entire history of the State in a single year. The fires multiply when California also cooks under a heat wave. Woodland Hills, a northern suburb of Los Angeles, registered 49.4 degrees Celsius on Sunday, higher than Saudi Arabia, the highest temperature ever measured in Los Angeles County.

The record for hectares burned (the previous one was in 2018) is also set when the classic fire season has just started. September is usually the hottest month and the most dangerous fires usually occur between this month and December, when temperatures begin to drop. The strong gusts of wind (called Santa Ana winds or devil winds) that put California on alert around October every year have not even started. The forecast of the state meteorological service is that the winds begin this week. The fire agency CalFire issued a red alert in the face of the dangerous situation.

State emergency teams fought 13 active fires Tuesday morning, plus other small local fires. The most worrisome was the called creek fire, in the mountains northeast of Fresno. The fire has burned 58,000 hectares in a wooded area. It’s been burning for three days and by Tuesday morning it was completely out of control.

The Creek Fire also left an unprecedented picture on Monday. The National Guard (the state reservist army) had to organize an air rescue operation of around 200 vacationers who had been trapped by flames around Mammoth Pool Lake, a water recreation place in the mountains. Last weekend was a national bridge in the United States for the Labor Day holiday. The rescue lasted hours and was carried out in Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters.

In the anecdotal chapter, CalFire revealed that one of the most worrying active fires, dubbed El Dorado Fire, which has been active since Sunday in the San Bernardino mountains and is only 15% contained, had its origin in a sparkler thrown during a party to reveal the sex of a baby. In this case, it is not an unprecedented event. A similar party started a fire in Arizona in 2017.

Small fires around Los Angeles left the sky covered in smoke between Sunday and Monday to the point that the sun was an orange point in some parts of the city. Virtually the entire county has experienced unhealthy air quality at some point over the weekend. The most worrisome Tuesday was the dubbed Bobcat Fire, in the Los Angeles National Forest, north of the city, which has already burned 3,400 hectares within a few kilometers of inhabited places. The entire natural area has been closed to visitors for a week as a precaution.

In the midst of the heat wave, the power company is selectively cutting off the electricity by order of the governor to avoid overloads in the network due to the use of air conditioning. The companies also have an order to make selective cuts before the red alert for winds, to prevent a spark from causing a misfortune like the one in 2018, when 85 people died in the town of Paradise in a fire caused by a faulty electrical panel.

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