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article imageCalifornia wildfires — A 'new normal' into uncharted territory

By Karen Graham     Aug 2, 2018 in Environment
At a news conference Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown said the wildfires raging across Northern California represent a "new normal" and the state must be prepared to spend billions of dollars dousing, containing and trying to curb them in the future.
Brown also pointed to the state's exploding population, combined with climate change as having conspired to create "ripe conditions" for the monster blazes, reports USA Today.
"Nature is very powerful and we are not on the side of nature," Brown said. "Every year is teaching the fire authorities new lessons. We are in uncharted territory."
By Thursday morning, Cal Fire's report said the Carr Fire had burned 125,842 acres or 196 square miles (508 square kilometers) and was 35 percent contained. It started on July 23 along Highway 299 near French Gulch.
As of this morning, 1,060 residences, 18 commercial structures, and 477 outbuildings destroyed, while 186 residences, 8 commercial structures, and 64 outbuildings have been damaged. The fire is 35 percent contained. Firefighting costs for this fire have already reached $24 million.
It's own weather system
The Carr Fire is now the seventh most destructive fire in state history and the most destructive ever for Shasta County. It is so large and so hot it has created its own weather system, reports VOX. When a wildfire gets as hot as the Carr Fire, they make pyrocumulus clouds, formations that look like mushroom clouds and can be seen for miles.
The Ferguson Fire near El Portal (Mariposa County) is now 68 610 acres & 39 percent contained.
The Ferguson Fire near El Portal (Mariposa County) is now 68,610 acres & 39 percent contained.
Cal Fire
Usually, cumulus clouds are formed when the sun heats the ground, sending warm air up into the atmosphere, where the air then cools and condenses, forming clouds. However, in a raging wildfire, especially if it is very hot, the heat from the flames rises quickly, Water inside trees and vegetation evaporates.
All this added moisture also rises quickly - condensing in the cooler air in the atmosphere. The clouds look and act like ferocious thunderstorms, even producing lightning and powerful winds in different directions, including "fire tornadoes" further complicating efforts of firefighters.
And believe it or not, but in some instances, these pyrocumulus clouds can even produce enough rain to put a fire out reports CNN.
California on fire
The state is ablaze with more than a dozen wildfires, with over 12,000 firefighters and 3,000 prison inmates all locked in a pitched battle against the blazes. The Carr Fire, alone, has 4,271 firefighters trying to get the inferno contained.
The Ferguson Fire, 300 miles to the south near Yosemite National Park grew to more than 100 square miles in size. Cal Fire reported. The fire has killed two firefighters and was 39 percent contained Thursday.
Two more fires in Mendocino and Lake Counties have grown to 170 square miles. Fourteen homes have been destroyed, but one of the blazes was 50 percent contained Thursday, Cal Fire said.
"For most of the night both fires remained active in the upper elevations," Cal Fire said in a statement. "The fire continues to spread into the Mendocino National Forest - a very steep terrain and fire intensity on the fire front make it difficult to insert crews in certain areas of the fire."
And the recurring theme with all the fires in California is the heat, wind, and very dry vegetation. And Governor Brown mentioned something else that is sure to upset some people, but it is also so very true and something we all must eventually address - Brown said the state was home to less than 20 million people a half-century ago, was "not designed for 40 million people."
Add the huge amount of construction that has gone on, and the movement of society into forested areas, plus the exhaust from 32 million automobiles -and we have a recipe for disaster. The governor also pointed out that this is the very first year that such a major wildfire has started so early in the year.
"We are in a new normal," Brown said. "We are in for a really rough ride."
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