Lake Fire Spreading Due To California Drought And Bark Beetle Infestation

The first major forest fire of the season has hit California, it has been named the Lake Fire Wildfire.

The fire began June 17, 2015, and has been spreading since then. The stats, as of 8 p.m. Saturday, say that approximately 16,000 acres have been burned with 500 structures threatened. Almost 2,000 personnel are assigned to the fire and it remains only 15 percent contained.

Lake Fire has shown no obvious cause, it is under investigation.

Normally, the high humidity levels at this time of year would be a great help to firefighters in the case of a wildfire. Unfortunately, humidity levels that would usually be between 50 and 100 percent are sticking to about 10 percent.

With the lack of rain, dry wood and dead leaves are proving to be potent fuel for Lake Fire.

"It makes a dry situation an incendiary situation," said William Patzert, employee of the Jet Propulsion Lab in La Cañada Flintridge. "We expect June gloom, we don't expect these crushing high-pressure systems which are more usual in late summer, fall.... This is all part of the drought pattern."

That means this wildfire season could be one of the worst for California in years. Already, Lake Fire is one of the largest fires seen in this terrain for a century. It's not just because of the drought, either.

Also to blame for the raging fire is a bark beetle infestation.

The L.A. Times reported on a survey completed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Over 4 million acres of trees were studied and the survey found that roughly 2 million trees were dead and dried up because of the beetle infestation.

Liz Brown, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, summed it up.

"The tree kill, that also has played into why these really thick trees that normally would be able to survive fires really just aren't able to right now."
The good news is, according to firefighters, Lake Fire has slowed its spread and is burning at a lower heat than expected. That is no small thing since it's allowing personnel the ability to get close enough to try to control the wildfire.

Many areas have been evacuated, including Barton Flats, Seven Oaks, Rainbow Lane, Heart Bar, and all cabins/camps in South Fork. Other areas may still be affected by Lake Fire. The San Bernardino Mountains, for instance, are under a heat advisory until Sunday at 7 p.m.

[ Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and ABC7 ]