Wildfires burn over 8,000 square km this year in U.S. state of California

LOS ANGELES: SEPT. 8 – Wildfires have burned more than 8,000 square km in the western U.S. state of California so far this year, as multiple massive wildfires are continuing to grow, authorities said Tuesday.

“To date, 2,033,916 acres (around 8,231 square km) have burned across California,” tweeted the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), adding that more than 15,500 firefighters are battling 14 active large wildfires statewide.

A total of 3,193 structures in the state have been damaged or destroyed to date, according to Cal Fire.

The devastating Dixie Fire, which started on July 13, accounted for more than 45 per cent of the total area burned in 2021 in California. The wildfire, burning in five counties in Northern California, has grown to be the largest one so far this year in the country and the second-largest one in California’s history.

The fire has incinerated 917,579 acres (around 3,713 square km), and destroyed 1,282 structures, with only 59-per cent containment as of Tuesday morning, said Cal Fire in an incident update.

Officials said that nearly 6,000 structures are still threatened by the blaze. More than 500 new firefighters joined the fight against the fire on Monday, adding to the total personnel of over 4,600 responders.

Cal Fire said in the incident update that the forest in the area is extremely dry, and the widespread fuel beds are quite receptive to sparks.

Meanwhile, another huge wildfire in Northern California, the Caldor Fire, has burned 216,646 acres (around 877 square km), with 49-per cent containment as of Tuesday morning. It is currently the second-largest active fire in the state.

The explosive fire, starting on Aug. 14, has destroyed nearly 1,000 structures near Lake Tahoe so far in two counties in Northern California and prompted mass mandatory evacuations in the city of South Lake Tahoe last week. Officials said in an incident update Tuesday that evacuation orders for some communities in the area have been downgraded to evacuation warnings, and that they have reminded the public to stay vigilant on current fire conditions.

Lake Tahoe, which straddles the state line between California and Nevada, is North America’s largest mountain lake and a major tourist attraction in the country.

Several new wildfires have erupted in California in recent days due to hot and dry conditions. The state and most of the U.S. West are in the grip of a severe drought of historic proportions this year.

Cal Fire officials warned that the fire season in California and across the West is starting earlier and ending later each year, and climate change is considered a key driver of this trend.

According to the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center, incidents in California were very active on Monday with such fires as Caldor, Dixie, Monument, River Complex and McCash gaining thousands of acres.

More than 23,000 wildland firefighters and support personnel are assigned to incidents across the country, the agency said.