Crystal Easter, of Spring Valley, comforts her dogs, Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, in Spring Valley, Calif., as they flee a wildfire. This is the second time this year Easter has had to evacuate. (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat via AP)

Battling 18 blazes, California may face worst fire season yet

Some 14,000 firefighters from as far away as Florida and even New Zealand are struggling to curb the 18 fires.

The largest wildfire ever recorded in California needed just 11 days to blacken an area nearly the size of Los Angeles — and it’s only one of many enormous blazes that could make this the worst fire season in state history.

Some 14,000 firefighters from as far away as Florida and even New Zealand are struggling to curb 18 fires in the midst of a sweltering summer that has seen wind-whipped flames carve their way through national forest land and rural areas, threaten urban areas and incinerate neighbourhoods.

“For whatever reason, fires are burning much more intensely, much more quickly than they were before,” said Mark A. Hartwig, president of the California Fire Chiefs Association.

Some of the largest fires have erupted just within the past few weeks as the state has seen record-setting temperatures — and the historically worst months of wildfire season are still to come.

In Northern California, the record-setting Mendocino Complex — twin fires being fought as a single conflagration — gained ground Tuesday but more slowly because its own smoke covered the area and lowered the temperature, according to the California Department of Forestry.

The flames, which had burned 457 square miles (1,184 square kilometres), were raging in mostly remote areas and no deaths or serious injuries were reported but 75 homes were destroyed.

The blaze, which broke out July 27, initially spread fast because of what officials said was a perfect combination of weather, rugged topography and abundant brush and timber turned to tinder by years of drought.

Related: Largest wildfire in California history still growing

Related: Back to rubble, some ‘lost everything’ in California fire

Resources also were thin at first because thousands of firefighters already were battling a fire hundreds of miles north. That fire, which spread into the city of Redding, killed six people and destroyed more than 1,000 homes. The so-called Carr Fire was less than half contained.

California is seeing earlier, longer and more destructive wildfire seasons because of drought, warmer weather attributed to climate change, and the building of homes deeper into the forests.

In becoming the biggest fire in California history, the Mendocino Complex fire broke a record set just eight months ago. A blaze in Southern California in December killed two people, burned 440 square miles (1,140 square kilometres) and destroyed more than 1,000 buildings.

California’s firefighting costs have more than tripled from $242 million in the 2013 fiscal year to $773 million in the 2018 fiscal year that ended June 30, according to Cal Fire.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” Gov. Jerry Brown warned last week. “Since civilization emerged 10,000 years ago, we haven’t had this kind of heat condition, and it’s going to continue getting worse. That’s the way it is.”

___

Associated Press writers Don Thompson in Sacramento, California, and Lorin Eleni Gill and Olga Rodriguez in San Francisco also contributed to this report.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Greater Victoria municipalities will consider at least seven applications for private pot stores

Victoria will eventually consider six applications, while Sooke will consider one

New Victoria ReStore location opens Oct. 27

New Tillicum location helps bargain hunters and Habitat for Humanity

Saanich homeless campers ‘apprehensive’ about pending police action

No police are currently on site after provincial government issued notice of eviction

Wait times for ICBC road tests increase in Victoria

Increase has no connection with tests becoming more challenging: ICBC

Smoking pot? Your dentist wants to know

Vancouver dentist and cannabis researcher shares oral health concerns of marijuana

Rick Mercer says pot is ‘excruciatingly boring’

Comedian hopes Canadians will move onto something else once marijuana is legalized

Advance voting begins Oct. 10 in Greater Victoria

The polls open at 8 a.m. for the 2018 municipal election with the general election taking place Oct. 20

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

Robert Barron column: Glad straps no longer used in schools

You would have to hold out your hands, palms up to expose the most sensitive parts

Island pot smokers won’t be allowed to light up on the ski hill

Mount Washington maintains smoke-free policy in light of marijuana legalization

U.S. pot firms urge Trump to dominate North American marijuana industry

Cannabis producers claim the U.S. is “rapidly losing” its competitive advantage to Canada

Battle resumes over speculation tax on B.C. vacant homes

Opposition calls it ‘fake’ tax that is reducing housing supply

Robert Barron column: Glad straps no longer used in schools

You would have to hold out your hands, palms up to expose the most sensitive parts

Around the BCHL: Merritt, Chilliwack and Coquitlam early-season surprises

Around the BCHL is a look at what’s going on in the league and throughout the junior A world.

Most Read