The Devil's Holiday: Fire and Record Heat

Update below

End of July and southern California becomes the devil’s holiday resort. Fires near Tehachipi; fires near Palmdale

“The flames spread to backyard fences at the edge of Palmdale and plumes of smoke streamed across the city of 139,000. About 2,300 structures were threatened.

Fire officials expect low humidity and high temperatures again today with winds gusts of up to 50 mph in the foothills in the evening.

The blaze is reported to be 20 percent contained.

But the main concern is for major power lines carrying electricity to the region”  [CBS]

More Photos

But California is first in our concern only because it is closest.  Just north, in Washington in the Northern Cascades, the Stehekin fire broke out on the 29th.  NW of Boise, Idaho another big fire, now contained, roared through some 4,800 acres.  Not too far away, in western Canada, over 200 fires have broken out.  Evacuation alerts follow.

CTV Vancouver’s Jim Beatty reported Friday evening that 268 fires are blazing across the province, many of which were caused by fierce lightning. About 170 new fires began on Thursday alone as a violent lightning storm swept across the region.

… Anyone found breaking a campfire ban may receive a $345 ticket, while anyone found to have started a wildfire may be fined up to $1 million or sentenced to three years in prison.

…In Vancouver, the city’s Board of Parks and Recreation elevated the fire hazard rating for Vancouver parks to extreme on Saturday following several weeks of warm, dry weather.

As of Saturday, smoking is banned in city parks and on trails, while charcoal and wood-burning barbecues are also banned. Campfires are not permitted in city parks or beaches, and residents must also remain on park trails.


And it’s just the start of fire season in western North America.  The story is bigger and uglier in Russia.

July has been the hottest month in Moscow in 130 years of recorded history

Forest fires raged across Russia on Friday, destroying villages, surrounding one southern city and killing at least 25 people, including three firefighters.

…The fires have spread quickly across more than 200,000 acres (90,000 hectares) in recent days after a record heat wave and severe drought. July has been the hottest month in Moscow in 130 years of recorded history. Fields and forests have dried up, and much of this year’s wheat harvest has been ruined.

Fires have all but encircled Voronezh, a city of 850,000 people, some 300 miles (475 kilometers) south of Moscow. The streets of Voronezh were filled with smog Friday and a giant wall of rising black smoke could be seen on the horizon, television footage showed.

More than 900 patients had to be hurriedly transferred out of a Voronezh hospital and nearly 2,000 children were evacuated from 12 summer camps in the path of the flames  [NPR]

Fish Dying from Warm Water

Much of Russia has been reeling. Forest fires have erupted. Drought has ruined millions of acres of wheat. More than 2,000 people have died from drowning in rivers, reservoirs and elsewhere in July and June, often after seeking relief from the heat while intoxicated. In Moscow alone, the number of such deaths has tripled in comparison with last year, officials said.

All week long, temperatures have been soaring to records, and on Thursday, they reached a new high for Moscow, 100 degrees. July has been the hottest month since the city began taking such measurements under the czars, 130 years ago, officials said.

At the Biserovsky Fish Farm in this suburb of Moscow, Ivan Tyurkin trudged along a pier and surveyed the breeding ponds all around him. He did not need a thermometer to figure out that the water was treacherously tepid. Dead trout, drifting like buoys, were evidence enough. [NYT]

And if the fire and heat isn’t enough, peatbogs near Moscow are smoldering, giving off foul smelling smoke and of course more CO2 and CH4 (methane) to the atmospheric over-load.

“”My lungs hurt from the smoke. I walk constantly with a oxygen can, because it is the only way to alleviate the situation, a little. Fumes are terrible in Moscow southeast. Smoke is also present in the northeast. There is also smoke in the west of Moscow.

This heat is already unrealistic. And here is also smog. No way to escape, the smoke is everywhere. I’m staying on a 42-floor, I see the whole city. Absolutely everything is shrouded in mist. We are suffocating already. Today, fires are extinguished, and they will start again tomorrow, until we get rain showers.” [KavKazCenter]

If the alarms of the present fires are not followed by alarm for the conditions that gave them birth we will be trying to live in the devil’s playground for the foreseeable years to come.  Infants and elders will be the first to succumb.

Update: From Russia, on Monday:

Russian officials have made what for them is a startling admission: global warming is very real. [Now It’s In My Backyard —  NIIMBY]

At a meeting of international sporting officials in Moscow on July 30, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev announced that in 14 regions of the country, “practically everything is burning. The weather is anomalously hot.” Then, as TV cameras zoomed in on the perspiration shining on his forehead, Medvedev announced, “What’s happening with the planet’s climate right now needs to be a wake-up call to all of us, meaning all heads of state, all heads of social organizations, in order to take a more energetic approach to countering the global changes to the climate.” (See pictures of Medvedev and Vladimir Putin on vacation.)

For Medvedev, such sentiments mark a striking about-face

Read more:

73° F
Normal daily high in Moscow during the summer months

Temperature in Moscow on Thursday — the highest reading ever in the city

Temperature on Monday in the fire-ravaged southern provence of Voronezh

25 million

Acres of crops ruined by the heat wave

Expected decline in Russia’s wheat exports this year

Increase in air pollution in Moscow last week due to peat bog fires near the city

Packs of cigarettes one would have to smoke per day to equal the effects of Moscow’s smog-choked air

in sales of Russian soft drinks

Number of new fires emergency crews have discovered in the past day

Number of people working to fight the blazes

Approximate number of people — many of them intoxicated — who have drowned while attempting to cool off in rivers

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