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California witnesses the decade’s worst start to fire season

Sheetal Sukhija - Wednesday 8th August, 2018

CALIFORNIA, U.S. - Witnessing what experts are calling the worst start to the fire season in a decade, California continues to be ravaged by 18 rapidly spreading wildfires, bolstered by strong winds and low humidity.

Over the last week, wildfires across California had torched about 290,000 acres - which is more than double the five-year average over that same period.

Until last week, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) was most worried about a deadly wildfire that began on the foothills of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and has since scorched though the mountainous Shasta County, killing seven people and wrecking everything in its path. 

The Carr Fire was declared the most formidable of the 94 wildfires burning across 13 U.S. Western states last week, when it devoured over 74,000 acres in four days.

Now in its third week, the Carr Fire is said to have burned more than 164,413 acres and has become the sixth most destructive wildfire in the state’s history.

Carr Fire was said to be the most ones difficult to contain as the fire spread at a startling speed across a steep terrain, making it hard for firefighters to build containment lines.

According to Cal Fire, the deadly Northern California wildfire has wrecked parts of Redding, left over 1,600 structures destroyed, killed seven people and is about 50 percent contained. 

However, over the weekend, a more dangerous prospect emerged - twin wildfires that are not only bigger than the Carr Fire but also more vicious. 

On Monday, a pair of fires that tore through the Lake, Colusa, and Mendocino counties in Northern California was jointly dubbed the Mendocino Complex fires.

In 11 days, the Mendocino Complex fires have burned through 290,692 acres of land and were said to be so large that they could cover more than two-thirds the size of sprawling Los Angeles.

The twin fires swelled to become larger than the deadly Carr Fire earlier this week and by Tuesday, the Mendocino Complex fires became the largest wildfire recorded in the history of California.

The Mendocino Complex fires also shattered the record established by the devastating Thomas fire just eight months back. 

Burning wildly for about five weeks, Thomas fire consumed roughly 282,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and left about 1,000 homes and buildings destroyed. 

However, Cal Fire noted earlier this week, that the Mendocino Complex fires has mostly burned forested land and only destroyed about 140 structures. 

Yet Cal Fire was on high alert since the twin fires were moving fast and were being fanned by extreme heat and hazardous winds.

According to Cal Fire, the Mendocino Complex fire is only 30 percent contained so far. 

State officials said that more than 14,000 firefighters, along with hundreds of U.S. Army personnel and over 1,000 prisoners are currently engaged in effort to battle the flames.

Further, fire crews from Australia and New Zealand have also flown to the U.S. to share their expertise in battling bush fires.

However, in an ominous warning, forecasters said that strong winds and low humidity could lead to the wildfires burning for the next few weeks.

On Tuesday, fire officials said that California's biggest wildfire on record, the Mendocino Complex Fire, is expected to burn for the rest of the month - considering that barely a third of it is under control.

Fire officials have raised further worries since more fires have been breaking out, adding to the mammoth workload of fire crews.

In an update on Tuesday, National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Hurley warned that conditions are not going to immediately improve.

In certain areas, temperatures as high as 43C (110F) are being forecast.

According to reports, nearly half of the ten largest California wildfires on record have occurred in the past decade.

Further, experts have stated that 2018 is the worst start to the fire season in ten years.

Meanwhile, the U.S. President Donald Trump, who declared a “major disaster” in California and ordered federal funding to be made available to help recovery efforts in areas affected by wildfires - slammed California’s environmental laws on social media.

Claiming that the wildfires were being "magnified & made so much worse" because of a Californian policy to divert water into the Pacific Ocean, Trump attacked Governor Jerry Brown. 

On Monday, the U.S. President wrote on Twitter, “Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water - Nice! Fast Federal govt. approvals.”

The following day, he tweeted, “California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!”

Trump’s claims were however, flatly rejected by experts and criticized by local officials in the state.

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