The Dixie Fire will become the largest fire in California’s history because it has devoured fragile trees and shrubs on the mountain slopes caused by years of drought and record high temperatures.
Since mid-July, firefighters have been fighting wildfires in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It has burned more than 927,000 acres of land, 41% of which is still burning uncontrollably.
Mike Yeun, a spokesperson for the California Forestry and Fire Department (Cal Fire), admitted that the fire may exceed the state record set last year, but he said: “We hope not.”
“We are crossing our fingers,” Yeun said at the Dixie command center. “But you know… Now, as of today, it has been controlled 59%. So we are confident that 59% of the fire will not spread, but it means we still have a lot of work to do.”
If Dixie becomes the most devastating fire in the state, it will overturn the August comprehensive fire that burned more than 1 million acres of land last year. The two are not strictly comparable because the August complex merged several fires that burned in the same area at the same time. Dixie is burning in Butte, Tehama, Plumas, Shasta and Larsen counties.
“The last fire season was unprecedented,” Yeun said, “and [this year] We have seen a lot of the same situation in some parts of California. Even worse than last year. “
Both fires are part of a larger trend. The California fire burned more than 4 million acres last year, easily surpassing the annual record of 2 million acres burned in 2018.
This surprised climate scientists, who had predicted that the damage caused by such wildfires would not occur in the next 30 years or more (Climate line, October 10, 2020).
Eight of the 10 largest fires in state history have occurred in the past five years, and many scientists consider this to be a clear sign of climate change.
“It is widely believed that man-made climate change is the cause of higher average temperatures and more extreme heat waves,” said Max Moritz, a wildfire expert at the University of California’s Cooperative Extension Department.
Although the reasons for the worsening drought are uncertain, he said in an email that “climate change is expected to lead to more precipitation patterns (ie, humid and dry periods)” and “greater heating makes any given The drought affects plants worse (that is, more flammable over a longer period of time).”
Moritz said: “Therefore, climate change is a direct or indirect responsibility.” “Then in an environment that is increasingly prone to fires, more ignitions are added as humans develop. The end result is that the record is repeatedly surpassed. .”
The most populous state in this country has experienced many droughts in history. But “there is reason to believe that global warming may make them worse,” said Jon Keely, a research scientist at the US Geological Survey.
Keely said the drought this year and earlier in 2014 both killed the plants that fuel the fires. In addition, “We have encountered a phenomenon-level heat wave, and this heat wave is undoubtedly a contributing factor. Because fire can basically burn more freely at high temperature, because high temperature will expel water from living fuel and dead fuel. This will Increase the speed at which they ignite and burn.”
Yeun of Cal Fire said another factor is insufficient humidity at night. It takes overnight humidity to restore some of the moisture in the vegetation.
“So, because of all this and the wind and access issues, this is just a recipe for disaster,” Yeun said. “And this is just the explosive fire situation we are experiencing.”
Keely said that Dixie’s size also stems from the failure to reduce death and dying vegetation.
“We have [roughly] These forests have been managed for 125 years and we have put out natural fires there,” Keely said. “This has led to the accumulation of fuel. “
He said that some experts believe that the level of dead vegetation in the Sierra Mountains is five times that of natural conditions. “So, putting all these things together, it’s basically a perfect storm in terms of fire conditions.”
forward from Electronics News With permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2021. E&E News provides important news for energy and environmental professionals.