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Thousands are expected to flee the raging forest fires in California

(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Published: Thu Jul 4, 2024, 16:40

Last updated: Thu Jul 4, 2024 4:41 pm

Thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate as an out-of-control wildfire rages in Northern California and much of the United States is gripped by a “record-breaking and dangerous” heatwave that is complicating firefighting efforts.

Since Tuesday, more than 3,500 hectares of grassland and forest have been destroyed when a fire broke out just outside Oroville.

The city, near the state capital of Sacramento, is just 38 kilometers from Paradise, a community that was destroyed in 2018 by the worst fire in California history, which killed 85 people.

Butte County Fire Chief Garrett Sjolund said a red flag warning was in effect for the area.

“The conditions in our county are very different this summer than the last two summers,” he told reporters.

“The fuels are very dense. The undergrowth is dry and as you can see, any wind will put out a fire very quickly.”

An evacuation was ordered for more than 25,000 people in the region on Wednesday, local NBC affiliate KCRA reported.

Climate scientists say the Western United States is facing decades of drying due to changing weather patterns that are at least partly caused by human-caused global warming.

California suffered from drought for about 20 years, but the last two years have been comparatively mild. Almost record-breaking amounts of rain have fallen, filling the reservoirs and triggering rapid growth of forests and grasslands.

However, it is becoming apparent that 2024 will be a hot and dry year and that the flora will dry out rapidly, providing ample fuel for the wildfires that are a normal part of the ecosystem's natural cycle.

Because of these conditions, authorities are warning of the risk of devastating fires, especially if fireworks are handled carelessly or negligently on July 4, Independence Day.

“We've had four fires in the last few weeks. This is a bad fire season,” said Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.

“The last thing we need is someone who bought fireworks at a local fire stand to go out and do something stupid. Don't be an idiot.”

On Wednesday, around 1,400 firefighters were deployed with heavy equipment on the ground and from the air with planes and helicopters to fight the flames and use red fire extinguishing agent.

Sjolund said equipment and personnel would arrive from other jurisdictions to bolster operations.

According to reports, several people, including firefighters, were injured, but none seriously.

AFP journalists saw the flames destroying buildings and vehicles.

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Butte County to free up resources and assist in the fight against the flames.

“We are using all available resources to fight this fire and will continue to work closely with our local and federal partners to support the affected communities,” he said.

“As we move into some of the most difficult months of the wildfire season, the state is better prepared than ever to protect vulnerable communities with new tools, technologies and resources.”

The National Weather Service (NWS) said that extremely high temperatures are expected in the region in the coming days, with temperatures reaching as high as 46 degrees Celsius in some places.

The oppressive heat is part of a system that is expected to affect nearly half the country's population, including over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

“Forecasts call for record-breaking and dangerous heat, making this Fourth of July week a sweltering heat wave across much of the West and from the Southern Plains to the Mid-Atlantic,” the NWS said Wednesday.

“As of this afternoon, heat-related watches, warnings and advisories are in effect for nearly 150 million residents in 21 states.”

Meteorologists said the heat would move in from the West Coast and hit central California before spreading further later in the week and reaching Oregon and Washington to the north.

“Dozens of record highs are possible, underscoring the rarity of this early July heat wave,” the NWS said.

As global warming progresses, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent. These are largely due to humanity's uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

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