Western USA Burning Like End Of World. Because Climate Change.
Dry weather and high winds have led to massive wildfires that have burned through California, Oregon, and Washington, killing at least seven people, two of them children, and forcing the evacuations of tens of thousands. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said yesterday that the fires could cause "the greatest loss in human lives and property due to wildfire in our state's history."
Nick Nauslar, a meteorologist with the National Interagency Fired Center in Boise, Idaho, told the Washington Post the rapid spread of fires over such a large area is virtually unprecedented, comparable only to the "Big Blowup" of 1910, which burned some three million acres in northern Idaho, western Montana, and parts of Washington and British Columbia:
"Multiple fires made 20-plus mile runs in 24 hours over the last few days in California, Oregon and Washington," Nauslar said. Such distances traveled so quickly may not be all that rare in grassland fires, Nauslar noted. "However, most of these fires are making massive runs in timber and burning tens of thousands of acres and in some cases 100,000-plus acres in one day," he said. "The sheer amount of fire on the landscape is surreal, and no one I have talked to can remember anything like it."
This wildfire event "rivals the past fire season in Australia," he said, noting that more acres burned overall in Australia's devastating fire season, however.
It's very bad. Donald Trump has been too busy complaining about outbreaks of arson during a small percentage of protests, and about James Comey for some reason, to offer any support to people facing the deadly disaster in the West. Probably just as well since he'd only say something incredibly stupid again.
It should be noted that none of the western fires were started by burning flags.
This seems an opportune time to remember that just a few weeks ago, Trump was ranting about not sweeping the forests enough, and that former DHS official Miles Taylor revealed that the sociopath in chief often ranted about cutting all emergency aid to California because the state didn't vote for him, making its residents non-American anyway.
In California, 28 fires are being fought by more than 14,000 firefighters. Roughly 30,000 people have been evacuated due to the Creek Fire in the central part of the state, northwest of Fresno. North of Sacramento, the Bear Fire, part of the larger "North Complex Fire," killed at least three people and has destroyed or damaged about 2,000 structures. The North Complex fire is so far just 23 percent contained, and has been feeding on trees killed by California's 2011-2017 drought.
The US Forest Service closed all 18 of the state's national forests Wednesday as well.
I have to confess that the idea of dying in a fire is among the most horrifying things I can think of.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said in a news conference Wednesday that two of the three dead were found in the same location. The other victim was discovered near Berry Creek by a California Highway Patrol officer who suspected they fled from their car in an unsuccessful attempt to escape the fire, the San Jose Mercury News reported. The sheriff's office was working to identify the victims and notify their families, Honea said.
In much of the Bay Area yesterday, a temperature inversion caused smoke so thick that street lights stayed on all day and the sky turned orange. CBS affiliate KPIX posted this drone footage of the apocalyptic scene.
In Oregon, fires are burning in several large parts of the Cascade mountain range, as this NOAA satellite image shows.
The Santiam Fire, which started in Santiam Canyon about 50 miles south of Portland, has forced the evacuation of thousands of people. It's believed to have been caused, or made worse by, downed power lines due to high winds. Gov. Brown said that some communities in the area had been "substantially destroyed." In the southern part of the state, parts of Medford were threatened, and two small towns in the area, Talent and Phoenix, were almost completely destroyed. WaPo reports that one person was found dead in Ashland, and that a 12-year-old boy and his grandmother were killed in the Santiam fire farther north Wednesday.
The Oregon coast is normally known for being wet and rainy, but not this year; the winds that have been driving the fires are expected to die down in the next few days.
And because deadly wildfires are no reason to stop rightwing idiots from spewing fear and paranoia, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office in Eugene issued a plea on Facebook to ask people to stop spreading false stories about the wildfires being set by evil antifa terrorists, because emergency responders have better things to do than to update residents on whether anarchist supersoldiers are the culprits.
And it's not just rumors on the internets; there are reports of militia dudes with rifles setting up "checkpoints" to interrogate anyone they look suspicious, isn't America the best? Robyn will have more on that shortly.
These two militia guys just me and two other journalists to “get the fuck out of here” https://t.co/9J3BySctHd— Sergio Olmos (@Sergio Olmos)1599767953.0
In Washington, more than half a million acres had burned by Wednesday, which is already half the amount of the state's worst fire year,
Chief Bud Backer told me he has never seen a fire explode like this one in his 33 years of service. Climate change… https://t.co/PE2Sn7uOcZ— Governor Jay Inslee (@Governor Jay Inslee)1599699228.0
In Okanogan County, in the northern part of the state, a one-year-old boy died as his family tried to escape the Cold Springs Fire. His parents were severely burned. Okanogan County Sheriff Tony Hawley said his office received a call about the couple, Jacob and Jamie Hyland, on Tuesday afternoon. Searchers found their burned-out pickup truck empty, and eventually found the family along the bank of the Columbia River Wednesday morning. The baby, Uriel Hyland, was deceased when the rescue crew found them. The Hylands were airlifted to a hospital in Seattle, where they're in critical condition with third-degree burns. KING-TV reports that extended family say Jamie Hyland is pregnant. Good Christ.
Sheriff Hawley said that since the fire may have been caused by human activity, the baby's death is tentatively being investigated as a homicide.
No Shit, This Is Climate Change
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is somehow still allowed to say the phrase "climate change," reported Wednesday in its monthly climate report that 2020's "meteorological summer" — June through August — was the fourth hottest on record in the US. Six states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah — had their hottest August in history, and on August 16, Death Valley reported a temperature of 130 degrees F.
Penn State atmospheric science prof Michael Mann (he has a new book coming out in January, if we survive that long) told CBS News that while climate models have predicted increases in extreme weather events as the planet warms, some past models may have been too optimistic.
This is yet another example of where uncertainty is not our friend. [...] As we learn more, we are finding that many climate change impacts, including these sorts of extreme weather events, are playing out faster and with greater magnitude than our models predicted.
It's not simply that forests are getting hotter and drier due to global warming, though those are entirely bad enough. Fire seasons are lasting longer, as much as two to three months longer than decades ago. And as we've noted in previous fire stories, it doesn't help that people really like building houses in scenic forested areas, which increases the danger to property and lives.
And while we're worried about fascism and the Supreme Court and bad cops and everything else, let's all remember that currently in the US there's one party that thinks climate change is real, and another that laughs at the very idea that driving SUVs has anything to do with fires, because that's stupid. Catastrophic fires are likely to continue as the planet warms, but we do have some control over how much worse they'll be in the coming decades. Boat parades won't help.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.