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