Over 27 wildfires have been raging through California for the past few days, destroying over two dozen homes and threatening even more. The fact that California has been suffering through a four-year drought provided plenty of fuel for the fires. Over 13000 residents were urged to flee their homes and are now residing in shelters for what is currently an unspecified amount of time.
The Northern California wildfire that worked its way through over 97 square miles of woodland and brush was previously contained as 1000’s of firefighters battled the blaze and used the highway as a containment line. However, on Monday, firefighters were taken by surprise when the blaze jumped the containment line and continued its rampage. Residents are also in a state of shock at the development.
Yahoo News released a statement from a resident of Clear Lake regarding the California wildfire, Donna McDonald, who currently resides in a high school turned makeshift shelter, said, “I’m overwhelmed, I was very happy at one point when I saw no smoke at all. Then all of a sudden it just flared up real big again.”
The weather has provided very little assistance in the fight against the raging wildfire, and the wind seems to have been the cause of this new outbreak. Officials say that much of the drought withered brush in Lake County hasn’t burned in years, and this led to a more unpredictable blaze. Previous reports show that a wildfire agency has even made interactive maps of the wildfires available. For a short period of time, though, the weather cooled and even aided crews in building a buffer between the wildfire and those it threatened. This brief respite came to an end on Monday when the winds betrayed the firefighting crews.
Monday afternoon several fires were ignited across Highway 20, north of Clear Lake as erratic winds stirred and carried the hot embers to new kindling. The fires have been generating their own wind which only helps to fan the all consuming blaze. Over the weekend, the fire reached almost triple its original size and took mere hours to create a barren wasteland out of what was once thousands of acres of manzanita shrubs and other brush. Presently, the fire is still just 12 percent contained after burning 62,000 acres and destroying 24 homes.
In a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle, Battalion Chief Carl Schwettmann of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told the press of the overwhelming pressure.
“There were too many (spot fires) for us to pick up. With these drought-stricken fuels, it’s just moving at an extremely high rate of speed.”
Controlled burns were used as a measure to protect some of the 5,500 homes in the line of fire, and crews set fire to shrubbery in the Lower Lake area in an effort to rob the blaze of its fuel. More fire crews have been brought in, and the number of active fighters has risen to nearly 3,000. Lynne Tolmachoff, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, stated that they were bringing in two more National Guard air tankers from Colorado to drop retardant in the hopes of keeping nearby communities safe.
Dry lightning sparked a few of the 20 other wildfires crews have been battling, and the Lower Lake blaze is, however, the largest one to date. The Rocky Fire is an unprecedented blaze, doing in five hours what was predicted to take seven days to destroy.
[Photo Courtesy Of Justin Sullivan via Getty Images]