A wildfire in Northern California destroyed more than 400 homes and businesses and caused one death over the weekend. Residents were forced to leave the area along roads where some buildings and vehicles were still in flames.
A second blaze, less than 200 miles away, destroyed 135 homes as it spread through two counties in the state’s Sierra Nevada region.
The main cause behind the fast-spreading fires is dry conditions caused by the California drought, which has entered its fourth year.
“The bushes, the trees have absolutely no moisture in them, and the humidities are so low that we are seeing these ‘fire starts’ just erupt into conflagrations,” or large, disastrous fires, says Mark Ghilarducci, director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. Ghilarducci said this summer’s fires are the most destructive he has seen in 30 years of emergency response work.
On September 13, firefighters raced to control the 95-square-mile blaze as thousands of residents fled their homes. In the Lake County town of Middletown, California, wind gusts up to 30 miles per hour spurred flames that quickly engulfed homes and businesses.
California Governor Jerry Brown called a state of emergency to free up resources on September 13. Meanwhile, the other 111-square-mile wildfire along the Sierra Nevada foothills had already received the same designation.
Some firefighters worked on the ground to put out spot fires in the two regions while others fought the fire from helicopters flying above.
“This is my home. Or it was,” said Justin Galvin, a firefighter who lost his own house.
On Monday morning, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said that the Lake County fire was 5% contained.
A Summer of Flames
Unprecedented wildfires have sprung up this summer in the Pacific Northwest. California, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho are among the states most affected. While wildfires are not uncommon in these regions during summer months, record high temperatures have fed the flames.
The largest of the California wildfires this summer is still burning. It began on July 31 after a lightning strike. It has charred 211 square miles and, as of September 13, it was 36 percent contained, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Staying Safe from Fire
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is urging people to help stay prepared by issuing safety tips. Here are important things to remember if you live in an at-risk area:
· Clear dead weeds and vegetation from your yard.
· Remove leaves and needles from your home’s gutters.
· Before starting a campfire in the wild, make sure you have a campfire permit and are allowed to be on the land you’re visiting.
· After holding a legal campfire, make sure it is properly extinguished.
Answer the following questions:
1 What is causing the fires in California?
2. Name two things that made the fires spread so fast?
3. What is a fire break?
4. What is a firestart, what causes this?
5. How long has the drought been going on in California?
6. What is a drought?