On Friday, fast-moving flames erupted near the Oregon border, forcing the evacuation of at least 5,000 people and leaving firefighters sweltering across the state.
The Siskiyou County sheriff’s office released a statement ordering the evacuation of the cities of Weed, Lake Shasta, and Edgewood due to a fire, called the Mill fire, that started in hot and windy conditions and quickly spread to 500 acres.
Thousands of homes and businesses may have been affected by the reported power outage. Images from fire monitoring cameras were dramatic, showing billowing clouds of smoke rising above the charred slopes and the dying trees. Multiple homes have been destroyed, and at least one person has been hurt, according to online and local media.
According to Christopher Rock, who works at the Mayten Store in Montague, a town located 30 miles (48km) north of Weed, people fleeing the fire crowded around the petrol pumps.
“It’s pretty busy right now,” he remarked. There’s a lot of smoke but no fire, they say.
As they battle to limit the blazes, firefighters throughout the state have had to contend with scorching temperatures. Hot weather in California is anticipated to last through Labor Day. On Thursday, temperatures reached 112 degrees Fahrenheit in the northwestern part of Los Angeles County, where another blaze, the Route fire, is active.
As Captain Sheila Kelliher-Berkoh put it, firefighters are “industrial athletes” who, in addition to their boots, coats, and helmets, may be carrying up to 50 pounds of equipment. This gear is necessary for them to work safely in difficult conditions, such as steep terrain and intense heat.
Seven firefighters had heat-related illnesses on Wednesday and were sent to the hospital. Combating wildfires has always been taxing, but in recent years, extreme drought and high heat have added an extra layer of difficulty. The mental health of workers is suffering just as much as their physical health is at risk from the labor.
As the climate crisis prepares the ground for larger fires during extreme weather, the situation is only expected to worsen.
Predictions of temperatures in the triple digits spurred concerns about the potential impact on the state’s electricity grid from the widespread use of air conditioners. The grid operator in California issued a “Flex Notice” for voluntary conservation between 4 and 9 p.m. on Friday. This was the third such alert in as many days.
A week after California adopted an ambitious plan to phase out the sale of gas-powered cars, state officials asked owners of electric vehicles to limit the periods they are plugged in to prevent stressing energy sources during certain high usage times.
The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, used the heat as an example of why the state must move quickly to adopt renewable energy sources. Newsom stated at a news conference on Wednesday that “Mother Nature has overtaken us,” a day after the California legislature authorized an ambitious $54bn in additional climate investment.
This summer, western regions have been hit by an outbreak of devastating wildfires. Siskyou county was the site of California’s deadliest and most destructive fire this year, which broke out in the middle of July. It was responsible for the deaths of four individuals and the destruction of much of the Klamath River village.
According to scientists, the West has gotten warmer and drier due to the climate crisis over the past three decades, and this trend will only continue, leading to more extreme weather and more frequent and deadly wildfires.
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