DISCUSSION: On November 8, a wildfire began in Butte County, California as the area was under very dry conditions due to a lack of rain for much of Northern California. The Camp Fire, as it is known, spread rapidly as a result of dry conditions and high winds in the area. In its destructive state, the Camp Fire engulfed the town of Paradise as well as costing 84 civilian lives. The Camp Fire destroyed or damaged nearly 14,000 buildings many of which were single family houses. In addition, about 800 residents from the area affected by the fire were reported missing. The fire was officially contained on November 25 after burning over 150,000 acres of land. The cause of the fire is still under investigation as it was started right near the power lines of Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) in Butte County.
Among the meteorological conditions that helped the fire spread the smoke, was due to a persistent ridge of high pressure that was there for almost a month and a half. The ridge of high pressure was blocking much of the storms from the Pacific to climb up towards Oregon and Washington which led to the really dry October for much of Northern California. In addition, the ridge had played a factor in the smoke in the Bay Area as it kept much of the smoke blowing into the Bay Area rather than a sea breeze from the Pacific Ocean. Also, the ridge affected the smoke by keeping it close to the surface due to the subsidence, or sinking air, that is often affiliated with a ridge of high pressure.
The smoke from the Camp Fire had reached the San Francisco Bay Area on the same day and continued for almost two weeks due to a persistent ridge of high pressure over California. The smoke had caused major problems in the Bay Area such as causing the 2.5 μm (micrometer) particulate matter (PM2.5) to be measured at unhealthy levels which led to the cancellation of many schools and colleges as well as several high school football playoff games. In addition, the high levels of smoke and particulate matters led to heavily reduced visibility at airports including San Francisco International Airport where there were lengthy delays due to the visibility. The Camp Fire is the most deadliest fire in the past century in the United States since the devastating 1918 Minnesota fire in which over 400 people died.
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© 2018 Meteorologist JP Kalb