California: an “explosive” fire spreads at high speed

More than 7,000 hectares of vegetation have been reduced to ashes since Friday east of San Francisco. The fire has already destroyed a dozen buildings.

Source AFP

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The “Oak Fire” in California has burned 7,000 hectares of vegetation and continues to spread.

UA fire dubbed the “Oak Fire” broke out last Friday near the small town of Midpines, California. On Monday, more than 2,500 firefighters, supported by 17 helicopters, were battling the flames of this “explosive” fire which continued to spread at a still “very rapid” rate in the forested hills of central California, near the famous Yosemite National Park . According to a final report on Monday evening, the fire had already covered some 7,000 hectares of vegetation.

Already the biggest Californian forest fire of the season, “it is advancing very quickly and the window of reaction to evacuate people is limited”, explained on CNN Jon Heggie, a Californian firefighters official. According to the expert, the speed of progression and the behavior of this fire are “really unprecedented”. “The flames were up to 30 meters high,” David Lee, an evacuee, told the newspaper. Santa Cruz Sentinel.

The 55-year-old was among the first people evacuated on Friday and believes his home was engulfed in the fire. “He was heading straight for us. This fire is by far the fastest I have ever seen,” added David Lee.

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The “Oak Fire” was only contained up to 16% on Tuesday, after having destroyed a dozen buildings, but the relief workers fear that this toll will increase rapidly. The fire threatens a few thousand homes in small rural towns in Mariposa County, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, where several thousand people remained under evacuation orders.

The fire, described as a “megafire” by Jon Heggie, is fueled in particular by dead trees and withered bushes in this region, which, like most of California, is subject to chronic drought. “It’s a direct result of climate change,” said the fire chief. “You can’t have ten years of drought in California and expect things not to change. »

Chronic drought and heat waves

Jonathan Pierce, a fire department spokesman, said low humidity and high temperatures were fueling the blaze. “We also have a strong mortality trees in Mariposa County, so a lot of standing dead trees, a lot of dead trees that are on the ground,” he added. Some 3,000 people have been evacuated so far, officials said.

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The American West has already experienced wildfires of exceptional magnitude and intensity in recent years, with a very marked lengthening of the fire season, a phenomenon that scientists attribute mainly to climate change. The “Oak Fire” is one of the most dramatic manifestations of the heat wave that hit the United States this weekend. Near the fire, temperatures are expected to reach 37°C on Monday, according to forecasts.

Similar or even higher temperatures were still expected in the central United States (Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas) and even the generally cool and very humid northwest coast of the country was not spared. The meteorological services have issued a high heat alert in Seattle this week and records could be broken there on Tuesday.

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