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California country

In California wine country, wildfire-fatigued residents weigh the unthinkable: Moving out – USA TODAY

SANTA ROSA, Calif. — Robert Hayden and his wife, Alla, have lived in the Spring Lake Village retirement community of Santa Rosa for 10 years and love its beautiful grounds almost as much as the plethora of interesting people they’ve met there – retired doctors, musicians, pilots, writers and executives.

On Sunday, the Haydens were among the approximately 450 Village residents forced to leave their homes as the fast-moving Glass Fire approached. It was the second time in recent years they’d gone through that drill, after fleeing the October 2017 wine country fires that killed 22 people and destroyed 5,600 structures. Though Hayden said the residents were better-prepared this time, the evacuation was still stressful.

“We went outside, the sky was all orange and the air was filled with ash,’’ Hayden said as he sat in his motorized scooter outside the Petaluma Community Center, about 20 miles south of his cottage. “It accumulated on my jacket. I think I still have remnants.’’

At 98, the longtime San Francisco Bay Area resident has no plans to relocate, but he senses a growing frustration among fellow members of the community who are fed up with living under the constant threat of wildfires this time of year.

Last month, some of the same 70,000 people under evacuation orders Tuesday in Napa and Sonoma counties were displaced by a lightning-sparked blaze that became the fourth-largest fire in state history.

‘Like God has no sympathy’: Crews struggle with deadly wildfires racing through Northern California, wine country

The thought of leaving the picturesque wine country, with its abundant top-notch restaurants and pleasant weather, is not typically tempting for those who can afford to live in the area. But the notion may become inevitable for many if the quick-striking wildfires continue to ignite regularly in a region that has grown increasingly dry with climate change.

“I see it in Spring Lakers. They’re beginning to move out,’’ Hayden said. “I think there’s going to be an increased trend of Northern Californians moving to less fire-prone areas.’’

It would be hard to blame them after watching the region bear the brunt of the more than 8,100 wildfires in the state this year, which have charred a record 3.8 million acres. Two years ago, the Butte County town of Paradise farther northeast was virtually wiped out by the Camp Fire, which killed 85 people.

Even infernos with considerably less tragic consequences, like the so-far nonlethal Glass Fire, bring on enormous disruption. Cal Fire said the blaze had destroyed 204 homes and businesses and incinerated 51,266 acres. It was only 2% contained as of Wednesday night.

The Glass Fire is one of two blazes racing through California since Sunday. The other, the Zogg Fire, has burned through 55,046 acres near Redding and left four dead. Containment was at 9% on Wednesday night.

Worse, fire officials fear the Zogg Fire may merge with the August Complex, already the largest blaze in state history, creating a megafire of more than 1 million acres.

The lightning-caused August Complex has blackened 949,672 acres since igniting in mid-August in neighboring Tehama County.

“It’s something we’re looking at, especially with the weather that’s coming,” Zogg Fire incident commander Sean Kavanaugh said Wednesday.

‘Scared to death’: Californians share their wildfire evacuation stories

Luis Garcia Ochoa and his sister Margarita Garcia live three blocks from each other in Calistoga, a Napa County town that was evacuated Monday night. They received cellphone alerts at 5 a.m. and said this was a closer call than the 2017 fires, which did more damage in Santa Rosa.

“It was frightening,’’ said Margarita, a winery worker who along with four other family members is sheltering at her daughter’s one-bedroom apartment. “Plus, my mother’s 89 and we had to pack up her oxygen and her medications. We couldn’t stay any longer because of the smoke and the flames, which were already close.’’

Heartbreaking images: Photos show Glass Fire’s devastating impact on Chateau Boswell winery in California’s Napa Valley

Martha McAllister, also a resident of Spring Lake Village, got an alert late at night Sunday and had just a few minutes to get ready to leave. McAllister, 90, was eventually bused to the shelter in Petaluma.

“Normally she’s the epitome of someone who’s put together, and she came out here in her bathrobe covered with ash,’’ said her daughter Stephanie McAllister, who had run out to buy her mother some clothes. “She’d been up all night.’’

Like the Haydens, Martha McAllister said she knew of Village residents planning to move away, but she had invested too much money on her entry fee into the community to pull up stakes. Plus, her daughter and granddaughter live nearby.

James Weathers, sheltering at the Finley Community Center in Santa Rosa with his wife, Linda, and 3-year-old boxer, Cocoa, said he refuses to believe this is the new normal. As with other locals, this is their second evacuation since 2017, although last time it was only for one day and their house was not damaged. 

This time they had to rush out more quickly and forgot their computer – with family photos, insurance information and financial records.

“We don’t know at this point whether our house is still there. I don’t know if we would rebuild here. Probably not,’’ said Weathers, 79, who has managed to keep his sense of humor intact.

“People, myself included, keep joking: ‘Where are the locusts? They’re coming.’’’

Shortly after checking in with his wife at the well-regarded Finley facility, Luis Villanueva recalled the 2017 fires as a “punch in the face’’ to residents who felt relatively safe from the flames. This year’s blaze has hit closer to home: A friend from work had his house burn down.

Fires rage: At least 35 dead as nearly 100 wildfires continue to rage across 12 Western states

An electrical engineer by profession, Villanueva takes an analytical approach to the threat of fires, keeping track of them and realizing the encroachment of developments into wildlands is part of the reason they have proliferated in populated areas.

But his wife, Ana Maria, who uses a walker, is not thinking in those terms, and he acknowledges “she’s scared to death’’ after they had to leave their Santa Rosa house of 18 years under evacuation orders. She knows of plenty others who feel the same way.

“All of my wife’s friends are talking about how this is it, they’re going to move out, but most of them don’t,’’ Villanueva said. “It’s human nature. A week after, two weeks after, I think you appreciate life better, and then they forget. Until the next warning.’’

Contributing: Mike Chapman, Redding (Calif.) Record Searchlight; The Associated Press

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California windy

In California, Windy, Dry Weather Expected To Bring ‘Critical’ Fire Conditions – NPR

California is preparing for windy, dry weather which is expected to cause critical fire conditions this weekend. Twenty-five major fires are burning throughout the state, including the Bobcat fire in Southern California, pictured on Sept. 21.

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California is preparing for windy, dry weather which is expected to cause critical fire conditions this weekend. Twenty-five major fires are burning throughout the state, including the Bobcat fire in Southern California, pictured on Sept. 21.

Frederic J. Brown /AFP via Getty Images

In California, weeks after a heatwave intensified devastating wildfires burning throughout the state, crews are bracing for weekend weather conditions expected to hamper containment efforts.

The National Weather Service issued red flag warnings across the state as windy and dry conditions are expected to raise “fire weather concerns to critical levels across parts of both Northern and Southern California on Sunday,” the agency said.

In addition to exacerbating conditions for the 17,000 personnel battling the state’s 25 major wildfires, residents throughout the state were warned of potential power outages starting Sunday. Utility provider Pacific Gas and Electric said it may need to turn off power for up to 97,000 customers in 15 counties to reduce the risk of wildfires.

Red flag warnings are expected to last through Monday and come weeks after a heatwave drove temperatures to triple-digit and record-breaking highs. Those conditions prompted the U.S. Forest Service to close several national forests.

On Friday, the agency said it would extend closures, affecting nine national forests.

“Continued closures are based on extreme fire conditions, critical limitations of firefighting resources, and to provide for firefighter and public safety,” said Randy Moore, a regional forester for the agency’s Pacific Southwest Region, in a statement.

Wildfires have burned some 3.6 million acres in California this year. Since August, fires have consumed at least 7,000 structures and killed 26 people, according to Cal Fire. The state’s largest blaze, the August Complex Fire, has charred more than 870,000 acres across six northern counties.

In addition to the windy conditions, large swaths of the state are experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s drought monitor.

Hot and dry conditions are also expected for parts of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

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California Governor

California Governor Signs Order Banning Sales Of New Gasoline Cars By 2035 – NPR

An aerial view of the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., in May. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on Wednesday that bans the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles in the state by 2035.

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An aerial view of the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., in May. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on Wednesday that bans the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles in the state by 2035.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California will phase out the sale of all gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035 in a bid to lead the U.S. in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging the state’s drivers to switch to electric cars.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Wednesday that amounts to the most aggressive clean-car policy in the United States. Although it bans the sale of new gas cars and trucks after the 15-year deadline, it will still allow such vehicles to be owned and sold on the used-car market.

“This is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change,” the governor said in a statement.

“Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse — and create more days filled with smoky air. Cars shouldn’t melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines.”

Newsom, a Democrat, also threw his support behind a ban on petroleum fracking but called on the California Legislature to make that change.

With extreme wildfires still burning in the state, Newsom says fighting climate change is an emergency. However, the state’s efforts have run afoul of the Trump administration, which has sought to revoke California’s authority to mandate zero-emission vehicles – a challenge that has landed in court.

Transportation is the state’s biggest — and rising — source of emissions, while other sources of emissions, such as from the electricity sector, are falling due to ambitious climate policies.

Gov. Brown's Biggest Climate Foe Isn't Trump. It's Car-Loving Californians

In January 2018, Gov. Jerry Brown signed an executive order setting ambitious targets of 200 hydrogen fueling stations and 250,000 electric vehicle chargers to support 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on California roads by 2025.

The number of zero-emission electric vehicles being sold in the state has been on the upswing in recent years, although they accounted for fewer than 8% of all new cars sold in California last year.

The California-based Coalition for Clean Air praised Newsom’s executive order, and the group said it was committed to helping fully implement the new policy.

“The Governor’s Executive Order is a meaningful step in addressing the climate crisis and protecting the health of Californians,” the coalition said in an email to NPR. “Electrifying transportation will also create jobs and help California move forward in its economic recovery.

Jessica Caldwell of Edmunds, the online resource for automobile information, said, “Many automakers have been guilty of setting short-term targets for their electrification strategy that never came to fruition.”

“This rule, if implemented, establishes a specific timeline that they’ll collectively need to adhere to,” Caldwell said. “California is a major market that automakers desperately need to maintain sales.”

A spokesman for the Institute for Energy Research, a think tank that often sides with the fossil fuel industry, called the move by Newsom “another silly distraction from real problems.”

“Driving cars is not what causes forest fires or makes them worse,” David Kreutzer, a senior economist at the institute, told NPR. “If people want to drive electric cars, they’ll buy them. You don’t have to eliminate the competition.”

Kreutzer also pushed back at the notion that electric vehicles are zero-emission. “Electric cars might not have emissions at a tailpipe, but they do have emissions at the power plant,” he said.

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Bobcat California

Bobcat Fire in California becomes one of largest in Los Angeles County history, whips up ‘smokenado’ – Fox News

A wind-driven wildfire burning in the mountains northeast of Los Angeles has now scorched over 100,000 acres as of Monday, as strong winds even whipped up a “smokenado.”

The Bobcat Fire has been burning since Labor Day weekend and doubled in size last week, becoming one of Los Angeles County’s largest wildfires in history.

“We’re still in the thick of a good firefight,” U.S. Forest Service public information officer Andrew Mitchell told the Los Angeles Times.

HOMES DESTROYED AFTER WINDS PUSH CALIFORNIA FIRE INTO DESERT

According to the U.S. Forest Service, additional evacuations were ordered in the Antelope Valley over the weekend as the blaze spread. No injuries have been reported.

The Bobcat Fire grew to over 1src3,srcsrcsrc acres on Sunday, according to fire officials.

The Bobcat Fire grew to over 103,000 acres on Sunday, according to fire officials.
(U.S. Forest Service/InciWeb)

Southerly winds gusting up to 30 mph were impacting ridges, while in the canyon winds were gusting around 20 mph into lower elevations helping to spread the flames.

“With these weather conditions, the fire was very active,” the agency said.

Officials said Sunday night that fire activity north of Mount Wilson continued to push northward, toward Highway 2.

Firefighters have been able to defend Mount Wilson, which overlooks greater Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Mountains and has a historic observatory founded more than a century ago and numerous broadcast antennas serving Southern California.

The blaze is 15% contained as teams attempt to determine the scope of the destruction in the area about 50 miles northeast of downtown LA. Thousands of residents in the foothill communities of the Antelope Valley were ordered to evacuate the area Saturday as winds pushed the flames into Juniper Hills.

The Bobcat Fire burns in the distance beyond a Joshua tree Saturday, Sept. 19, 2src2src, in Juniper Hills, Calif.

The Bobcat Fire burns in the distance beyond a Joshua tree Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Juniper Hills, Calif.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Roland Pagan watched his Juniper Hills house burn through binoculars as he stood on a nearby hill, according to the Los Angeles Times

Jesse Vasquez, of the San Bernardino County Fire Department, hoses down hot spots from the Bobcat Fire on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2src2src, in Valyermo, Calif.

Jesse Vasquez, of the San Bernardino County Fire Department, hoses down hot spots from the Bobcat Fire on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Valyermo, Calif.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

“The ferocity of this fire was shocking,” Pagan, 80, told the newspaper. “It burned my house alive in just 20 minutes.”

EXPERTS ARGUE LIGHTNING STORMS, FOREST DEBRIS HELPED FUEL DEADLY FOREST FIRES

The Bobcat Fire is expected to keep growing on Monday as critical fire weather conditions continued due to gusty wind and low humidity.

A San Bernardino County Fire Department member keeps an eye on a flareup from the Bobcat Fire on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2src2src, in Valyermo, Calif.

A San Bernardino County Fire Department member keeps an eye on a flareup from the Bobcat Fire on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Valyermo, Calif.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Those gusty winds whipped up a “smokenado” near Big Pines as strong, erratic winds spread the blaze, according to ABC7.

The smokenado was similar to that of a dust devil. Dust devils are a small, “rapidly rotating wind” made visible by the dust, dirt or debris it picks up, according to the NWS. They are typically harmless and weaker than tornadoes.

Jesse Vasquez, of the San Bernardino County Fire Department, hoses down hot spots from the Bobcat Fire on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2src2src, in Valyermo, Calif.

Jesse Vasquez, of the San Bernardino County Fire Department, hoses down hot spots from the Bobcat Fire on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Valyermo, Calif.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

In addition to the 103,000 acres burned by the blaze, the Bobcat Fire destroyed the nature center at Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area, a geological wonder that attracts some 130,000 visitors per year.

Across California, over 19,000 firefighters continue to fight more than two dozen major wildfires.

More than 7,900 wildfires have burned more than 5,468 square miles in California this year, including many since a mid-August barrage of dry lightning ignited parched vegetation.

A firefighter died last week on the lines of another blaze in Southern California that was sparked by a gender-reveal party.

CLICK FOR MORE WEATHER COVERAGE FROM FOX NEWS

A statement from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said it was the 26th death involving wildfires besieging the state.

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Other blazes continue to scorch the west as above-normal temperatures return and gusty winds bring fire concerns for parts of the Great Basin.

A look at active wildfires burning across the West on Sept. 21, 2src2src.

A look at active wildfires burning across the West on Sept. 21, 2020.
(Fox News)

In Wyoming, a rapidly growing wildfire in the southeastern part of the state was closing in on a reservoir that’s a major source of water for the capital city, Cheyenne.

Fox News’ Janice Dean and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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California officers

California officers sickened responding to passed out motorist on Golden Gate Bridge – NBC News

Several first-responders were sickened in San Francisco while attempting to help a motorist who passed out on the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, authorities said Monday.

The incident unfolded at about 11:45 a.m PT on Sunday with reports of an impaired driver stopped in northbound lanes of the famous span of U.S. Highway 101 that connects San Francisco to Marin County, the California Highway Patrol said.

The responding officers smelled “what we believe is fentanyl,” CHP Officer Andrew Barclay told NBC News, and the driver was immediately treated with the narcotic overdose spray Narcan “to bring him back.” Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that can be fatal even in small doses.

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A short time later, the CHP officer who entered Shaw’s car to turn off the ignition became violently ill, fell to ground and “began convulsing and vomiting,” according to Barclay.

That officer was also given Narcan and Barclay said that treatment “likely saved his life.”

Later, a tow trucker driver, three more CHP officers and a Golden Gate Bridge patrol officer also fell ill and were treated at a hospital on Sunday, officials said.

All of those first responders had been released from the hospital by Sunday night, authorities said.

A hazmat team from the Mill Valley Fire Department decontaminated the car and several CHP cruisers that had responded.

“Once it’s determined that it’s a possible Fentanyl call, we have to treat it just as we do with all other infectious diseases or chemicals,” said Mill Valley Fire Chief Scott Barnes told NBC Bay Area. “We have to wear proper equipment, otherwise we become the victim.”

The 32-year-old man in the car was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor DUI before his release Sunday night, according to the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office and CHP.

Image: David K. LiDavid K. Li

David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.

Alexander Mitchell

Alexander Mitchell is a desk assistant for NBC News.

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California wildfires

2020 wildfires in California and west: Everything we know and how to help – CNET

An unprecedented fire season is wreaking havoc across the Western US, with nearly 100 major wildfires tearing across multiple states and air quality plummeting. At least 23 people have died, with dozens more missing and over 3,000 homes, and entire neighborhoods, destroyed since the season began. By Friday in Oregon, which has declared a state of emergency, half a million people were under evacuation orders as two fires threatened to merge and continue rapidly advancing toward Salem and Portland’s suburbs. Oregon fires have burned more than 1 million acres, said the state’s governor, Kate Brown. 

The 2020 fire season has been record-breaking, in not only the total amount of acres burned at just over 3 million, but also 6 of the top 20 largest wildfires in California history have occurred this year. pic.twitter.com/CmmhH5wTVX

— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) September 10, 2020

California’s wildfires, driven by extreme blazes in August and September, have already burned more acres than any year on record. As of Thursday, there are blazes burning in at least 10 western states, according to the interagency incident information system.

From the lab to your inbox. Get the latest science stories from CNET every week.

The images and stories coming out of the US west are eerily reminiscent of those experienced by Australians in early 2020.

In January, vast swaths of Australia burned. The skies turned orange, and smoke blanketed the country’s largest cities. Entire cities were flattened. Now, across the Pacific, this grim history is repeating. San Francisco skies turned an eerie orange last week, with smoke blotting out the sun. 

There are glimmers of hope, as a freak blizzard slowed fire growth in Colorado. But in a sign of things to come, the fire season is yet to peak, and more of Washington state burned in a 24-hour period last week week than in 12 of the last 18 fire seasons.

Here’s what we know about the ongoing fires and how you can help from the US or afar.

If you’d just like to find out where to donate or how you can help, you can skip to the end of the page by clicking here

Why is the West Coast on fire?

Fires can start in a variety of ways. Human activity, like carelessly discarding a cigarette, poorly maintained infrastructure or even gender reveal parties with pyrotechnics can spark fires. Some of the wildfires currently blazing across California are the result of accidental ignition. 

Fires can also be deliberately lit, though arson has not been linked to the current conflagrations. Rumors have circulated through social media that some of the fires may have been intentionally set by either right-wing or leftist activists, leading some officials to mount social media campaigns of their own to dispel the myths. 

Nature also conspires to begin fires, with lightning strikes a major concern. In California, intense thunderstorms kicked off a number of large blazes in August. Prolonged periods of drought and mismanagement of national forests may also play a role in helping these fires start. With the fire season getting longer, the window to perform critical hazard reduction burns has decreased, giving fires a chance to really take hold. The risk of the wildfires burning across western US was well-known to scientists and, regardless of the origins, fires are fueled by a dizzying number of factors.

A lack of rain and low soil moisture can help enable small fires to grow in size, and coupled with the high temperatures and fierce winds, small fires can quickly become huge infernos. This all feels extremely similar to anyone familiar with the bushfire crisis confronted by Australia in January. Environmental factors contributed significantly to the unprecedented fire season down under and they are playing out again in the US — partially driven by the negative effects of climate change.

What is the connection to climate change?

Wildfires aren’t started by climate change, but they are exacerbated by the effects of global warming. The Climate Council, an independent, community funded climate organization, suggests fire conditions are now more dangerous than they were in the past, with longer bushfire seasons, drought, drier fuels and soils, and record-breaking heat in Australia. The link between fires and climate change has become a political football, but experts agree climate change explains the unprecedented nature of the current crisis. 

Wildfires are getting worse in the US. According to data from the Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity program, on average, there are more wildfires, and they are burning more land each year. A study published in July 2019 concluded that “human-caused warming has already significantly enhanced wildfire activity in California … and will likely continue to do so in the coming decades.”

There’s no question that 2020 will be one of the hottest years on record for the planet, and a 75% chance it will be the hottest ever, according to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Increased temperatures allow fires to burn more intensely and also cause forests to dry out and burn more easily. The heating is unequivocally caused by climate change. 

“The debate is over around climate change,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom told reporters on Friday, standing in a charred landscape. “Just come to the state of California. Observe it with your own eyes. It’s not an intellectual debate. It’s not even debatable.” 

There is also a horrifying feedback loop that occurs when great swaths of land are ablaze, a fact the globe grappled with during the Amazon fires of 2019 and the Australian bushfires of 2020. Huge fires release large amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The gas, which makes up only a small percentage of the total gases in the atmosphere, is exceptionally good at trapping heat. 

Andrew Sullivan, a fire research team leader for CSIRO, an Australian government research agency, examined how technology may help predict and fight against fires. In September, he told CNET that “changes to the climate are exposing more areas to the likelihood of fire.” 

What areas are affected?

Fires are burning across the western US, but the greatest conflagrations are across California and Oregon. 

More than 3.5 million acres have burned in California, with over 2,500 more fires than at the same point in 2019. One of the largest fires during the Australian season, the Gospers mountain megafire, burned through around 2.2 million acres. “Unprecedented” is the word again being used by officials, weather services and media to describe the size and severity of the blazes. The dust and ash from the fires have turned the skies orange across California.

Blazes in Oregon have been increasingly destructive, driven by heavy winds. “I want to be upfront in saying that we expect to see a great deal of loss, both in structures and human lives,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said during a briefing Tuesday. “This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state’s history.” 

Washington has also experienced significant fires, with almost 350,000 acres burned in a 24-hour period in early September. Two large fires broke out on Sept. 8, and Gov. Jay Inslee said “more acres burned … than in 12 of the last 18 entire fire seasons in the state of Washington.”

The New York Times has an informative fire map that can help you track where conflagrations are burning.

Who’s fighting the fires? 

In California, the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire, heads up the wildland firefighting effort, but actually beating back the flames on the ground is a massive collaboration that also involves local, county and federal resources. Teams of National Forest Service and other agencies’ “hotshot” teams travel from as far as New Mexico to fight fires on the ground. 

California also employs a controversial “conservation camp” program in which prison inmates are trained to fight fires. Prisoners can earn time off their sentences and work towards continue in a career en emergency services upon their release. But the program has been criticized for the dangerous work that comes with meager pay. 

Many conservation camps have been sidelined in the wildfire fight during this record-breaking season due to outbreaks of the coronavirus. But as of Thursday, inmate crews were out on the line fighting the out-of-control Creek Fire near Fresno. 

Do I need to wear a mask?

The smoke and ash from wildfires can irritate the respiratory tract and make it harder to breathe. During Australia’s bushfire season, there was a stark increase in the amount of calls to ambulance services and researchers have demonstrated there may be a significant health burden on those exposed to smoke. Respiratory distress sees more people entering hospitals in the US during a typical wildfire season.

Fine particles in the air can cause damage to the lungs and increase inflammation in the short-term. What is less certain is the long-term effects of exposure to smoke.

We have become intimately familiar with the use of masks over the last six months, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, but you may be wondering whether you need to use one to protect against smoke from wildfires. The short answer is: You probably should, but filtering smoke and ash out of the air requires an N95 or P100 mask — and public health officials suggest these should be reserved for health care workers. They also cannot completely filter out some of the gases present in wildfire smoke. 

Cloth masks and other coverings we have become familiar with during the pandemic will not be effective at protecting against smoke. The US Environmental Protection Agency says remaining indoors and limiting your time outdoors is “the most effective way” to protect yourself during wildfire emergencies. 

You can find current air quality data from AirNow for your ZIP code, city or state.

How you can help

Other things you can do

  • Raise awareness! You can tweet and share and post this story — and dozens of others — all across the web. More eyeballs means more help to those who need it.
  • Run your online searches through Ecosia, which uses profits to plant trees where they’re needed most. Trees help reduce the carbon dioxide load. It can be added to Chrome.
  • In the US, if you want to contact elected officials and make your voice heard about climate change action — you can do that here



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California Trump

Trump to visit California amid criticism for silence on fires – POLITICO

California wildfire

Flames lick above vehicles on Highway 162 as the Bear Fire burns in Oroville, Calif., on Wednesday. | Noah Berger/AP Photo

OAKLAND, Calif. — President Donald Trump will visit California Monday for a briefing with Gov. Gavin Newsom and emergency response officials on the wildfires, a White House official confirmed Saturday.

Trump will meet with local and federal fire and emergency response personnel during a trip to McClellan Park, a former air base just outside of the city of Sacramento, White House spokesman Judd Deere said in an email. The park is also the site the state fire agency has used to launch big firefighting planes.

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“Since mid-August, President Trump and Governor Newsom have spoken by phone and the White House and FEMA have remained in constant contact with State and local officials throughout the response to these natural disasters,” Deere said. “The President continues to support those who are battling raging wildfires in a locally-executed, state-managed, and federally-supported emergency response.”

Deere noted that “the President has approved a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for California that began on August 14 for individual and public assistance.”

He also highlighted Trump’s 2018 visit to the state after a series of fires that year, and signed an executive order to aimed at reducing wildfire risk.

“The Administration has also approved 10 Fire Management Assistance Grants and 24 grants for other western states, which provides a 75% Federal cost share for the mitigation, management, and control of fires,” Deere wrote. “More than 26,000 federal personnel and 230 helicopters have been deployed to the region to fight these fires.”

The president and his administration continue to monitor and provide federal support for wildfires damaging states across the West including Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, he added.

Trump’s visit comes amid criticism that he’d failed to mention the Western wildfires for more than three weeks, until Friday night, when he made a reference to the disasters publicly.

“THANK YOU to the 28,000+ Firefighters and other First Responders who are battling wildfires across California, Oregon, and Washington,” he wrote. “I have approved 37 Stafford Act Declarations, including Fire Management Grants to support their brave work. We are with them all the way!”



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California wildfires

2020 wildfires in California and the west: Everything we know and how you can help – CNET

An unprecedented fire season is wreaking havoc across the Western US, with wildfires tearing across multiple states and air quality plummeting. At least 15 people have been killed and over 3,000 homes destroyed since the season began. By Friday in Oregon, half a million people were under evacuation orders as two fires threatened to merge and continue rapidly advancing toward Salem and Portland’s suburbs.

California’s wildfires, driven by extreme blazes in August and September, have already burned more acres than any year on record. As of Thursday, there are blazes burning in at least 10 western states, according to the interagency incident information system.

From the lab to your inbox. Get the latest science stories from CNET every week.

The images and stories coming out of the US west are eerily reminiscent of those experienced by Australians in early 2020.

In January, vast swaths of Australia burned. The skies turned orange, and smoke blanketed the country’s largest cities. Entire cities were flattened. Now, across the Pacific, this grim history is repeating. San Francisco has turned red and orange, smoke blotting out the sun. 

There are glimmers of hope, as a freak blizzard slowed fire growth in Colorado. But in a sign of things to come, the fire season is yet to peak, and more of Washington state burned in a 24 hour period this week than in 12 of the last 18 fire seasons.

Here’s what we know about the ongoing fires and how you can help from the US or afar.

If you’d just like to find out where to donate or how you can help, you can skip to the end of the page by clicking here

What caused the fires?

Fires can start in a variety of ways. Human activity, like carelessly discarding a cigarette, poorly maintained infrastructure or even gender reveal parties with pyrotechnics can spark fires. Some of the wildfires currently blazing across California are the result of accidental ignition. 

Fires can also be deliberately lit, though arson has not been linked to the current conflagrations. Rumors have circulated through social media that some of the fires may have been intentionally set by either right-wing or leftist activists, leading some officials to mount social media campaigns of their own to dispel the myths. 

Nature also conspires to begin fires, with lightning strikes a major concern. In California, intense thunderstorms kicked off a number of large blazes in August. Prolonged periods of drought and mismanagement of national forests may also play a role in helping these fires start. With the fire season getting longer, the window to perform critical hazard reduction burns has decreased, giving fires a chance to really take hold. The risk of the wildfires burning across western US was well-known to scientists and, regardless of the origins, fires are fueled by a dizzying number of factors.

A lack of rain and low soil moisture can help enable small fires to grow in size, and coupled with the high temperatures and fierce winds, small fires can quickly become huge infernos. This all feels extremely similar to anyone familiar with the bushfire crisis confronted by Australia in January. Environmental factors contributed significantly to the unprecedented fire season down under and they are playing out again in the US — partially driven by the negative effects of climate change.

What is the connection to climate change?

Wildfires aren’t started by climate change, but they are exacerbated by the effects of global warming. The Climate Council, an independent, community funded climate organization, suggests fire conditions are now more dangerous than they were in the past, with longer bushfire seasons, drought, drier fuels and soils, and record-breaking heat in Australia. The link between fires and climate change has become a political football, but experts agree climate change explains the unprecedented nature of the current crisis. 

Wildfires are getting worse in the US. According to data from the Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity program, on average, there are more wildfires, and they are burning more land each year. A study published in July 2019 concluded that “human-caused warming has already significantly enhanced wildfire activity in California … and will likely continue to do so in the coming decades.”

There’s no question that 2020 will be one of the hottest years on record for the planet, and a 75% chance it will be the hottest ever, according to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Increased temperatures allow fires to burn more intensely and also cause forests to dry out and burn more easily. The heating is unequivocally caused by climate change. 

On Sept. 9, California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted a short video by Bloomberg’s QuickTake in which he said “climate change has profoundly impacted the reality that we’re currently experiencing.”

Over 2 million acres have burned this year — SO FAR. We haven’t even hit “peak” fire season.

We do not have time to deny the reality of climate change. pic.twitter.com/kPb11yXprh

— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) September 8, 2020

There is also a horrifying feedback loop that occurs when great swaths of land are ablaze, a fact the globe grappled with during the Amazon fires of 2019 and the Australian bushfires of 2020. Huge fires release large amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The gas, which makes up only a small percentage of the total gases in the atmosphere, is exceptionally good at trapping heat. 

Andrew Sullivan, a fire research team leader for CSIRO, an Australian government research agency, examined how technology may help predict and fight against fires. In September, he told CNET that “changes to the climate are exposing more areas to the likelihood of fire.” 

What areas are affected?

Fires are burning across the western US, but the greatest conflagrations are across California and Oregon. 

More than 3.5 million acres have burned in California, with over 2,500 more fires than at the same point in 2019. One of the largest fires during the Australian season, the Gospers mountain megafire, burnt through around 2.2 million acres. “Unprecedented” is the word again being used by officials, weather services and media to describe the size and severity of the blazes. The dust and ash from the fires have turned the skies orange across California.

Blazes in Oregon have been increasingly destructive, driven by heavy winds. “I want to be upfront in saying that we expect to see a great deal of loss, both in structures and human lives,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said during a briefing Tuesday. “This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state’s history.” 

Washington has also experienced significant fires, with almost 350,000 acres burned in a 24-hour period in early September. Two large fires broke out on Sept. 8, and Gov. Jay Inslee said “more acres burned … than in 12 of the last 18 entire fire seasons in the state of Washington.”

The New York Times has an informative fire map that can help you track where conflagrations are burning.

Who’s fighting the fires

In California, the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire, heads up the wildland firefighting effort, but actually beating back the flames on the ground is a massive collaboration that also involves local, county and federal resources. Teams of National Forest Service and other agencies’ “hotshot” teams travel from as far as New Mexico to fight fires on the ground. 

California also employs a controversial “conservation camp” program in which prison inmates are trained to fight fires. Prisoners can earn time off their sentences and work towards continue in a career en emergency services upon their release. But the program has been criticized for the dangerous work that comes with meager pay. 

Many conservation camps have been sidelined in the wildfire fight during this record-breaking season due to outbreaks of the coronavirus. But as of Thursday, inmate crews were out on the line fighting the out-of-control Creek Fire near Fresno. 

Do I need to wear a mask?

The smoke and ash from wildfires can irritate the respiratory tract and make it harder to breathe. During Australia’s bushfire season, there was a stark increase in the amount of calls to ambulance services and researchers have demonstrated there may be a significant health burden on those exposed to smoke. Respiratory distress sees more people entering hospitals in the US during a typical wildfire season.

Fine particles in the air can cause damage to the lungs and increase inflammation in the short-term. What is less certain is the long-term effects of exposure to smoke.

We have become intimately familiar with the use of masks over the last six months, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, but you may be wondering whether you need to use one to protect against smoke from wildfires. The short answer is: You probably should, but filtering smoke and ash out of the air requires an N95 or P100 mask — and public health officials suggest these should be reserved for health care workers. They also cannot completely filter out some of the gases present in wildfire smoke. 

Cloth masks and other coverings we have become familiar with during the pandemic will not be effective at protecting against smoke. The US Environmental Protection Agency says remaining indoors and limiting your time outdoors is “the most effective way” to protect yourself during wildfire emergencies. 

You can find current air quality data from AirNow for your ZIP code, city or state.

How you can help

Other things you can do

  • Raise awareness! You can tweet and share and post this story — and dozens of others — all across the web. More eyeballs means more help to those who need it.
  • Run your online searches through Ecosia, which uses profits to plant trees where they’re needed most. Trees help reduce the carbon dioxide load. It can be added to Chrome.
  • In the US, if you want to contact elected officials and make your voice heard about climate change action — you can do that here

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California camper

California camper who recorded his family’s Creek Fire escape says airlift was an exhilarating surprise. ‘We all thought we were goners’ – CNN

(CNN)Jeremy Remington didn’t like his chances when he, his family and scores of other campers gathered on the edge of a California lake as the Creek Fire closed in.

Fire was burning Saturday night in the trees and hills on all sides of the Mammoth Pool Reservoir. The roads were impassable, the air thick with smoke, and no one had cell phone service.
Then they heard a helicopter.
“Everyone was screaming, jumping, yelling, hugging” after the crew noticed the crowd and dipped the helicopter toward them, he recalled. “It was one of the best feelings in my life.”
“We (had) all thought we were goners.”
Remington was one of more than 220 people who authorities said were airlifted Saturday night from the Sierra National Forest’s Mammoth Pool Reservoir area northeast of Fresno as the Creek Fire tore through. The blaze started late last week in the forest’s Shaver Lake area and had burned more than 163,000 acres by Wednesday, one of more than 90 major wildfires burning across the US West.
The number airlifted from the forest by high-capacity military helicopters through Tuesday had risen to about 385, California National Guard Col. David Hall told CNN.
As his own escape unfolded, Remington captured video of some of its harrowing moments. He described the flight to safety to Alisyn Camerota on Wednesday on CNN’s “New Day.”

‘It all happened so fast’

Remington and relatives — his mother, his partner, and his brother and sister-in-law and their two children — had been camping on the other side of the lake Saturday morning, in part to celebrate his mother’s retirement.
Not long after they noticed smoke in the distance, a roughly 12-hour ordeal to leave the forest began.
Sometime after a trip to a store Saturday, Remington recorded video of him in riding in a car, with fire burning trees on both sides of the road.
“It all happened so fast,” he said.
Back at his campsite, there was nowhere left to go by vehicle. His brother had a boat, so they piled in and motored to the other side of the lake, eventually joining scores of other people in a camping area along the water.
No one had cell phone service, he said.
“There was no word. Talking with other people who were stranded, no one heard anything,” Remington said.
In the evening, he recorded a panoramic view. All was hazy, and trees, brush and sky were growing yellow and orange in most places around him, with thick walls of gray smoke looming elsewhere.
“There’s fire on all sides, all around us,” he says on the video.
“You could feel the heat. The embers were falling on you and hitting you in the face,” he recalled to CNN. “It was unreal.”
Though he says he thought he wouldn’t get out, he and others tried to stay outwardly positive.
“We tried to keep it together as best we could … especially for the young kids, and just for other people around and their children,” he said. “You don’t want to lose it.”

Campers flash their lights at a helicopter

Eventually, they heard a helicopter in the distance.
“Everyone started flashing their lights, putting their — you know, their hazard lights on their cars, flashlights in the sky, to make sure the helicopters saw us,” he recalled.
“Once they saw us and they started getting lower, we knew that rescue and help was on the way,” Remington said.
“You can’t describe it unless you have been in that situation. Like, you’re going to die, and then all of a sudden you’re not. It’s just an amazing feeling.”
Several helicopter trips were made to evacuate the campers. A Chinook took dozens of people at a time, images show.
On Wednesday, Remington, speaking to CNN from Palmdale outside Los Angeles, said his family was doing OK.
“We’re trying to get back to life as we can,” he said. “We still don’t know anything about our belongings or vehicles. We just assume everything is gone. That’s probably the best way, is to assume. And then if it’s not, you know, thumbs up.”

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California wildfire

California wildfire prompts air rescues of more than 160 stranded campers – Fox News

At least 163 people trapped by a fast-spreading wildfire near Central California’s Mammoth Pool Reservoir in the Sierra National Forest had been rescued by the Air National Guard as of early Sunday morning, according to a report.

Of those rescued from Mammoth Pool, Minarets, and nearby Cascadel Woods, 20 were hospitalized and some had critical burn injuries, emergency-response officials told Fresno’s KFSN-TV.

Dan Lynch, director of the Fresno County Department of Public Health, told Fresno’s FOX 26 Saturday night that rescuers were headed back to airlift more evacuees in the overnight hours but he didn’t know the exact number.

“We’re uncertain of what that number is, that will be a surprise,” he told FOX 26. “We don’t know what the critical nature of the injuries are but we do know there are injuries with this group and some of them are critical.”

Those rescued were taken to an Army National Guard helicopter maintenance base by the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, FOX 26 reported.

Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said on Twitter that the California National Guard was performing a “major” rescue with a CH-47 Chinook helicopter airlifting people trapped by the Creek Fire.

Hokanson shared a photo from the cockpit of the aircraft as it was performing rescues.

“So proud of our National Guard pilots and crews. Thoughts with those affected by this unfolding disaster,” he tweeted.

Another 1,000 people were reportedly trapped within the campground but weren’t in need of immediate rescue.

Authorities have issued evacuation orders throughout the region.

Sierra National Forest spokesman Dan Tune said those trapped were told to shelter-in-place – even if it meant jumping in the water – after the only road out of the campground was compromised, according to the Fresno Bee.

”Mainly our focus is the safety of all the folks all over the forest,” Tune said. “Just making sure folks are safe and get them evacuated.”

CALIFORNIA ISSUES EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING, WITH POSSIBLE BLACKOUTS, AMID RECORD-HIGH TEMPERATURES 

Plumes of smoke rise into the sky as a wildfire burns on the hills near Shaver Lake, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2src2src. (Associated Press)

Plumes of smoke rise into the sky as a wildfire burns on the hills near Shaver Lake, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. (Associated Press)

The Creek Fire had exploded to 36,000 acres with zero containment by Saturday evening after sparking earlier in the day as temperatures reached into the triple digits amid a weekend heatwave that affected much of the state, according to the Bee.

Fire crews will attempt to get access to the area via water-dropping aircraft, Tune said.

“All our resources are working to make that escape route nice and safe for them,” he added.

Tune said a command post was expected to be set up at Sierra High School in Tollhouse, Calif.

The Fresno County Sheriff tweeted that Shaver Lake was closed to the public because of the fire and under evacuation order. The California Highway Patrol shut State Route 168 to only allow access for emergency responders and evacuees.

“Once the fire gets going, it creates its own weather, adding wind to increase the spread,” Tune said.

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Cal Fire (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) said nearly 12,500 firefighters were battling 22 major fires in the state that have been spurred on by hot temperatures and dry weather.

California has seen 900 wildfires since Aug. 15, many of them started by an intense series of thousands of lightning strikes. The blazes have burned more than 1.5 million acres (2,343 square miles). There have been eight fire deaths and nearly 3,300 structures destroyed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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