NEWS

California wildfires displace 23,000, destroy thousands of structures

California has seen over 6,000 wildfires this year, with about a dozen currently burning. The Valley Fire, in Lake County, north of San Francisco, and the Butte Fire, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, are the worst of the current blazes. Together, these blazes have burned through 138,660 acres, displaced 23,000 residents, threatened 15,400 structures, destroyed 751 homes, injured 4 firefighters, and killed one person as of Sept. 15, 2015. A third fire, the Rough Fire, south of Fresno, has burned 128,800 acres since it began in July. California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency, and on the fires, said “…we are really in a battle with nature. That nature is more powerful than we are.”

Valley Fire
The Valley Wildfire seen from a CALFIRE plane (CALFIRE)

The Valley Fire scorched small towns in Northern California, including Middletown, a small town in Lake County that recently welcomed evacuees into its small high school. Officials say that high temperatures, dry conditions, and gusty winds led to the “explosive” and destructive nature of the Valley Fire. Between two towns – Middletown and Cobb, another small town in the county, five of 14 plants that use steam to generate electricity were damaged by the blaze. Schools in Lake County have been closed temporarily, but the schools in Middletown are closed indefinitely. Additionally, this fire threatens the Napa Valley wine industry, hitting right around harvest time and destroying the homes of many wine industry employees who live in Lake County.

Though thousands have fled following evacuation orders, others have ignored the warnings and stayed put, causing firefighters to abandon battling the blaze in order to perform rescue procedures. “This is damn serious stuff,” says Gov. Jerry Brown. “People need to leave when they are told.” About 15,000 persons are involved in the firefighting, and California has seen a third more fires this year than last year.

Sources and Additional Reading:

  1. California wildfires burn hundreds of homes, force 23,000 to flee – The Denver Post
  2. California fire updates: Valley fire grows to 67,000 acres, 15% contained – The Los Angeles Times
  3. 3 Major California Wildfires Remain Largely Out of Control – The New York Times
  4. California wildfires: 23,000 people displaced from homes – BBC