The Latest Details on the Carr Fire (credit: Cal Fire, National Weather Service) (Photo credit: KTLA.com)
The Carr fire is now the second most expensive wildfire with an estimated $25.4 million is suppression costs. This estimate does not include costs associated with damage from the fires. The death toll of the Carr fire has risen to six. The fire that has ravaged over 110,000 acres and continues to burn has prompted the action of over 3,600 fire personnel. With over 500 structures already impacted, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection say nearly 5,000 more are in immediate threat from the fires. As in most cases the current and future weather conditions are aiding in the future spread and limited containment of the fire. The combination of high winds, high temperatures, and dry vegetation has aided in conditions that are prime for fire growth. The Carr fire has been burning since the beginning of last week. It was likely started by a car that suffered mechanical failure. One positive note is that the containment is up from 5% to nearly 27% as of early this morning.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Sacramento predicts very hot and dry surface conditions are in concert to create an environment that will allow this fire to continue spreading even with light winds. Relative humidity values less than 15 percent and maximum temperatures in the middle 90’s are expected across the area. The highest threats are near the city of Redding and surrounding areas where irregular spreading of the fire is possible. It is also important to remember that fire behavior is difficult to predict, and wildfires can generate their own micro scale wind circulations and produce higher winds near the fire itself that are different from synoptic winds.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Allan Diegan
Update on the Dangerous Wildfires Burning Across California (Credit: National Interagency Fire Center, NWS Sacramento, Cal Fire. Photo Credit: CalTrans)
Discussion: Dangerous wildfires have been burning through multiple states in the West over the past month. These wildfires have burned over one million acres of land across fourteen states according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The hot temperatures and the dry weather that the western parts of the United States have endured have been one of the primary catalysts for these wildfires breaking out. These weather conditions have given firefighters a hard time with containing these wildfires due to the dry vegetation and blowing winds allowing for erratic fire behavior.
In California, there are currently 5 active wildfires that are burning. The largest of these is the Carr Fire in Shasta County north of Redding, CA, which has burned 98, 724 acres, and is twenty percent contained. The River Fire and Ranch fires in Mendocino County, CA are both wildland fires and have burned 35,076 acres and 20,911 acres respectively in that area. The fires in Mendocino County are five percent contained. The Ferguson fire is a vegetation fire near Yosemite National Park that has burned 54,481 acres and is thirty percent contained. Parts of Yosemite National Park were closed as a result of the fire. The Whaleback fire in Lassen National Forest has burned 14,098 acres and is twenty percent contained. All of these wildfires have prompted mandatory evacuations across many parts of the state. Other states are battling wildfires as well. Multiple states across the western United States are currently battling one or more fires. Four states Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, and Arizona are battling ten or more wildfires. In total ninety fires have occurred in the month alone. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, this is an unusually high amount of fires for July.
With the advancements in satellite technology, meteorologists are able to detect where the smoke from these fires is traveling. Using the GOES-16 satellite, meteorologists can see what locations the smoke from the fires is being carried to. Using the shortwave infrared channel on the GOES-16 satellite meteorologists can pick up hot and small fires. During the daytime, the visible channel can aid in fire detection by picking up on wind changes and also see hotspots from the fires flaring up in different parts of the state.
Wildfires are not just a danger on the ground. The smoke from the wildfires currently burning is affecting the air quality across the western region. Poor air quality is dangerous for many sensitive groups like the elderly, young children and those with compromised immune systems. If you are apart of one of the sensitive groups it is vital to limit your exposure to wildfire smoke. It is also important to take steps to protect yourself from the fires and the smoke and to follow the safety orders and evacuations issued by the authorities. It is also important in these weather conditions to exercise caution when using items that could ignite a fire i.e. cigarettes, campfires, and brush clearing equipment, as any small fire could spread rapidly. To learn more about fire weather and fire weather education, be sure to click here!
© 2018 Meteorologist Shannon Scully
What causes wildfires, and how can you protect yourself from the dangers that occur?
In recent weeks, California firefighters are continuing to struggle with containing a blaze that is ripping apart nearly 9,300 acres of land near Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. While this is a frightening event, unfortunately it’s a normal occurrence and harsh reality for many people living in the western part of the United States. Many people may feel powerless and unsure of how they can help. It is crucial to know what causes these wildfires and how citizens can protect themselves, their families, as well as their property.
The biggest initiator of wildfires is due to human activity. It has been stated by the National Park Service that as many as ninety percent of wildfires are caused by campfires being left unattended, the burning of debris or leaves, negligently discarded cigarettes, and intentional acts of arson. Fortunately, in some states, legislation has been passed to prohibit acts of burning leaves on property, as well as the time of year of doing so. In Massachusetts, for example, the timeframe of burning leaves is from January 1st to May 1st and only from 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM. It also must be at least 75 feet from buildings. However, even though this law is enacted, there are still twenty-two areas in Massachusetts that prohibit the act of burning leaves completely.
Another cause of wildfires is due to lightning. Lightning is described as having two components - dart leaders and return strokes. The leader is the build-up of positive charges on the ground beneath the cloud, attracted to the negative charge in the bottom of the clouds. The return streaks of light are a series of strokes that produce the actual lightning bolt or flash that we see. There are two types of lightning which are described as “cold lightning” and “hot lightning”. Cold lightning is a return stroke with intense electrical current but of relatively short duration. Hot lightning has currents with less voltage, but these occur for a longer period of time. Fires are usually started by unusually long-lasting hot lightning bolts. Wind is also impactful on creating wildfires. For example, in California there is a phenomenon known as the Santa Ana winds. These winds are strong, extremely dry down-slope winds that originate inland and affect coastal Southern California and northern Baja California. They originate from cool, dry high-pressure air masses in the Great Basin. Santa Ana winds are known for the hot, dry weather that they bring in autumn but can also arise at other times of the year. They often bring the lowest relative humidity of the year to coastal Southern California. This low humidity, combined with the warm, heated air mass, plus high wind speeds, create critical fire weather conditions. Also known as "devil winds", the Santa Anas are infamous for fanning regional wildfires.
Homeowners in wildfire prone areas should keep all of this information in mind, as well as taking their steps to prevent the spreading of these fires. First off, homeowners should remove combustibles including firewood, yard waste, barbecue grills, and fuel cans from their property. Before evacuating, close all windows, vents, and doors to prevent a draft. Shut off natural gas, propane, or fuel oil supplies as well as filling any large containers (such as pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, or tubs) with water to slow or discourage fire. Homeowners should heave warning from local first responders, police and/or firemen for when to evacuate. You should never stay and try to put out the flames yourself, as the flames can engulf properties in mere minutes. While fire season is a scary event for anybody - people that live in wildfire prone areas should be knowledgeable on what to do, try to remain calm if they are asked to evacuate as well as to be safe at all times.
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©2018 Weather Forecaster Michael Ames