Fires Rage in California

It’s wet and cool around San Francisco, but in the north in the Shasta and Mendocino forests, down to Clear Lake (again!) in the Sierras, east of Stockon and Fresno it’s a burning hell.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. (AP) — An explosive wildfire burned largely unchecked Monday after incinerating hundreds of homes and devastating rural communities north of California’s Napa Valley, leaving at least one person dead and sending tens of thousands fleeing down flame-lined streets.

But it’s not the only one. A second massive blaze, less than 200 miles away, destroyed 135 homes as it spread through Amador and Calaveras counties in the Sierra Nevada. That fire was 30 percent contained.

Both fires have displaced 23,000 people…  MORE at AP


AND this word from Science Advances as reported by Andrew Revkin in the NY Times

New Study: Burn it All (Fossil Fuel), Lose it All (Antarctic Ice and Today’s Coasts)

A new study of Antarctic ice and warming finds humanity will have to write off today’s coastal cities centuries from now if it chooses to keep burning fossil fuels…

In interviews, scientists said that such long-term risks raise profound moral questions for people of today.

“What right do we have to do things that, even if they don’t affect us, are going to be someone else’s problem a thousand years from now?” asked Ian Joughin, an ice sheet expert at the University of Washington who was not involved in the new research. “Is it fair to do that so we can go on burning fuel as fast as we can?

Read all. Video chats included.

Record Breaking Fire Season

Fire Statistics. Note Acres Burned

Fire Statistics. Note Acres Burned

We’ve posted often this summer about the fires sweeping the west, and especially Alaska. Note the number of acres burned so far this year — well above any year of the last ten.

Fires In the West

Sky News reports:

A massive wildfire raging in north-central Washington has become the largest is the state’s history.

Western States Wildfires (click for interactive)

Western States Wildfires (click for interactive)

The blaze measured overnight at just over 400 square miles, Okanogan County Fire spokesman Rick Isaacson said on Monday.

He called the record unfortunate, particularly due to it coming so early in the wildfire season.

“It’s only August 24,” Mr Isaacson said. “In our district we could see this go clear to the first of November.”

And it’s worse in Alaska.  Click here for interactive map of all US fires, and here for an article at EcoWatch, a good site to keep track of.

Heat Records Climb Everywhere

Washington State is pretty close to California and has been going through unprecedented heat wave.

A wildfire burns in Wenatchee, Washington on Sunday, June 28, during the hottest June temperatures ever recorded there. Image credit:

Unprecedented June Heat in Northwest U.S. Caused by Extreme Jet Stream Pattern


Spain has just sent out a warning to its residents.  And around the world, here are headlines from Jeff Masters’s blog at Wunderground.

Germany Breaks its All-Time Heat Record

All-time July National Heat Records Fall on Three Continents

Unprecedented June Heat on Four Continents; Wimbledon Roasts in Record Heat



Fire Season In Full Flame

The Year to date fire statistics for 2014 are gaining fast on those of previous years though it looks like 2011 with over 6 million acres and 2006 with over 74 thousand separate fires will continue to hold the leads in those unhappy categories.

Climate Fires Statistics


The Lodge Fire in Mendocino County, a couple of hours north of San Francisco, has bitten 8 firefighters and is still burning — over 8,500 acres as of Sunday morning.

Further north in Siskiyou county two fires are burning, and it’s not rain but wind coming in to make things more difficult.

In Washington State, 12 fires are burning and in Oregon there are 9 with the biggest, the South Fork complex has roasted 63,500 acres.

Rowena Fire, August 2014, Moving towards the Dalles, Oregon

Rowena Fire, August 2014, Moving towards the Dalles, Oregon

I know, I know, some fire is good some of the time, and many homes should not be built in fire-prone areas, but I’d like to see the stats for rise in local temperature against rise in local fires. With every tenth of a degree rise in average daily temperature, the evaporation rate from leaves has got to increase, leaving the trees drier and closer to kindling…

Fools at the Fire

Timothy Egan has a trenchant piece in the NY Times on Thursday, Aug 7: Fools at the Fire

…it seems as if half of Washington State is on fire. Smoke, devastation, ashen orchards of charred fruit, standing dead pines. More than 250,000 acres have burned in the largest fire in the state’s history, the Carlton Complex. About 300 homes have been destroyed. A small army of firefighters, at a cost of $50 million so far, is trying to hold the beast in the perimeter, between days when the mercury tops 100 degrees.

Climate Change Fire Washington

Smart foresters had been warning for years that climate change, drought and stress would lead to bigger, longer, hotter wildfires. They offered remedies, some costly, some symbolic. We did nothing. We chose to wait until the fires were burning down our homes, and then demanded instant relief.

and, a great irony: People who hate government most are the loudest voices demanding government action to save their homes.

We all share some of the blame [for doing nothing]; procrastination is part of our character of the moment. Still, if want to put a face on this inaction, you can look no further than the member of Congress whose district in Washington State is now choked by smoke and harassed by flames — Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

She is part of the leadership of a Republican majority that is hostile to the point of negligence on the basic science of climate change.

Read All

Napa Fire: September in July

The big brush fire in northern Napa country, CA has been burning for over 24 hours and despite 1,000 firefighters is not under control as of Wednesday afternoon.

Fire Napa July

“With rainfall at near-historic lows over the past 12 months – on the heels of two previous years with little precipitation – the forests and grassland of Northern California are exceptionally parched.

“No one can really remember it being drier than this,” said Bill Stewart, a forestry specialist at UC Berkeley. “We’re like two months drier than usual. This is like September, when everything is nearly bone-dry.”

“…Already this year, more wildfires have hit the state than usual. State firefighters, who battle the bulk of California’s blazes, have counted 2,700 incidents between January and July – a 50 percent jump from the 1,800 wildland fires they respond to on average during the same period, according to state fire data.

Last month, an unusually early 2,600-acre blaze raged west of Kern County’s Lake Isabella in the southern Sierra. In May, a series of conflagrations in San Diego County tore through some 14,000 acres, forcing more than 20,000 people to evacuate.”

SF Gate

A Breath of the Future

From New Scientist, on the Rim Fire disaster near Yosemite [now the 7th largest in state history and not far from 6th.]

Wildfires have always been a part of life in the US west, but they are on the rise as climate change takes hold. In California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, the main problem is the earlier onset of spring. “The snow melts earlier, especially at lower elevations,” says Michael Wehner of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a lead author for the US National Climate Assessment. That gives forests longer to dry out, producing tinderbox conditions by late August.

By threatening San Francisco’s power and water, the Rim Fire serves a warning that wildfires can have effects far beyond the area they burn. These will include a surge in air pollution as wildfire activity increases, a new study suggests.

Xu Yue of Yale University has calculated that by the middle of the century, as wildfire activity grows with climate change, total summertime soot pollution will rise by up to 27 per cent in the western US, while aerosols of organic compounds will increase by as much as 70 per cent (Atmospheric Environment,

Both are important contributors to PM2.5, a class of microscopic particles that trigger cardiovascular and respiratory problems…

 If only we could export these particles to those states whose citizens elect officials who think God couldn’t possibly be doing this to his people….



Yosemite Fire: One of Biggest, Ever

 Astronaut Karen Nyberg posted the startling fire photo to her Twitter account late August 24. She took the shot from 230 miles above the earth

Astronaut Karen Nyberg posted the startling fire photo to her Twitter account late August 24. She took the shot from 230 miles above the earth

From LAT  One of the biggest fires in CA history.  According to CalFire, it is now, at 15th largest, and nowhere near controlled.  It could easily get to the top 10, though we hope not surpass the biggest on record, 2003 in San Diego County which was over twice as large — 273,246 acres v 133,980 now for the Rim fire.

  • The fast-moving Rim fire has doubled in size since Thursday night and remains only 5% contained, with steep terrain, warm weather and low humidity hampering firefighting efforts. Adding to the difficulty is the blaze’s tendency to burn the tops of trees, creating a “crown fire” with long, intense flames that skip across forested land faster than a wildfire that creeps along near the ground. Assisted by trench-digging bulldozers and water-dropping aircraft, more than 2,600 firefighters were battling the fire.  LAT
  • grew more than 7 square miles overnight as firefighters have gained little ground in slowing it. The fire is threatening thousands of rural homes, as well as San Francisco’s water and energy supply.  On Sunday morning the 207-square-mile inferno was just 7 percent contained. The blaze is covering an area about the size of Chicago.  CBS


Inmate firefighters walk along Highway 120.  Crews are clearing brush and setting sprinklers to protect two groves of giant sequoias as a massive week-old wildfire rages along the remote northwest edge of Yosemite National Park. Photo: Jae C. Hong

Inmate firefighters walk along Highway 120. Crews are clearing brush and setting sprinklers to protect two groves of giant sequoias as a massive week-old wildfire rages along the remote northwest edge of Yosemite National Park. Photo: Jae C. Hong

  • State of Emergency declared in San Francisco due to damage to electrical transmission lines in fire; the PUC has already shut down several lines.

Yosemite Rim Fire Explodes

All through the west.  Something like 50 major fires burning — as predicted.  Now in the backyard of the Bay Area.

The Rim Fire burns near Yosemite National Park, Calif. The wildfire outside Yosemite National Park is one of more than 50 major brush blazes burning across the western U.S. ó more than tripled in size overnight and still threatens about 2,500 homes, hotels and camp buildings. Fire officials said the blaze burning in remote, steep terrain had grown to more than 84 square miles and was only 2 percent contained on Thursday, down from 5 percent a day earlier.

The Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, Calif –one of more than 50 major brush blazes burning across the western U.S. — more than tripled in size overnight. It was only 2 percent contained on Thursday, down from 5 percent a day earlier.

There are 10 in California alone, and three more that have been fully suppressed.  The only good thing that can be said is that both numbers of fires and acreage burned are well behind last year, and the year before — nationally.  Not in California though,  where the numbers are ahead of last year and the ten year average:

January 1, 2013 through August 17, 2013 4,715 94,855
January 1, 2012 through August 17, 2012 3,443 76,064
5 year average (same interval) 3,328 136,776

From CalFire