More than 100,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes in California, in the grip of some of the worst fires in its history, and entire areas of which were covered in thick clouds of smoke, Friday August 21. Fires started by tens of thousands of lightning bolts, fueled by record-breaking heat and low humidity, have already claimed the lives of at least five people, according to local authorities.
The “LNU Lightning Complex,” one of the world’s largest blazes, alone had nearly 90,000 hectares in smoke by Friday morning. In particular, it threatened the vines of Napa and Sonoma counties, which had already been exposed to such fires in recent years.
The risk of infection with the new coronavirus also prompted some of the 119,000 evacuees to seek refuge in car parks or by beaches rather than in the accommodation centers offered by the authorities. In the coastal town of Santa Cruz, authorities have asked tourists to return home to provide hotel beds for people fleeing the fires.
Governor makes direct link to climate change
Daniel Berlant, representative of the California Fire Prevention Agency, praised the efforts of firefighters over the past twenty-four hours: “They are making progress, but the weather conditions are not helping us. ” California recorded on August 16 what could be the third hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth: 54.4 ° C in Death Valley. If the mercury should drop slightly over the weekend, the risk of new thunderstorms, and therefore lightning, leaves the agency in ” state of emergency “.
In a speech at the Democratic convention Thursday, California Governor Gavin Newsom stressed the direct causal link between climate change and these fires. “Climate change is a reality, he assured. If you don’t believe it, come to California. “
During a press briefing on Friday, the governor said firefighters from Texas, New Mexico and Oregon had been sent in as reinforcements and that other states should also help. More than 312,000 hectares have been decimated in California since the start of this episode, mainly in uninhabited areas.
These fires, which usually occurred between August and November, have become more frequent and larger in California in recent years, due in part to climate change. The deadliest fire in California history, dubbed “Camp Fire,” occurred in November 2018 in the upstate. He had made 86 deaths.
Smoke from fires has also prompted air pollution alerts, especially in San Francisco Bay. The US weather service expected the sky to stay “Foggy and smoky”, at least ” short term “.