Wildfires have burned more than 2m acres (809,000 hectares) in California this year, setting a state record even as crews battled dozens of growing blazes in sweltering temperatures Monday that strained the electrical grid and threatened power outages for millions. Firefighters struggled to corral several dangerous blazes ahead of dry, hot winds predicted to raise fire danger to critical levels in the coming days.
An “extreme red-flag warning” has been issued in California over the Getty Fire, the first such alert of its kind. Issued by the Los Angeles weather service, it covers Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties. Winds are expected to reach 80mph (128km/h) and there is concern they will fan the fire, which has already burned through 658 acres.
Tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate as wildfires rage in California, threatening large areas including its famous wine-growing region. At least 40,000 fled their homes in the foothills north of Los Angeles, with winds of up to 40mph fanning the flames and creating huge plumes of smoke in the Santa Clarita area.
According to the National Weather Service, rains predicted for the Northern California area affected by wildfires could cause wet ash to flow down steep inclines. This could complicate the search for human remains in the fire. President Trump is under fire for comparing the California wildfires to Finland and suggesting ‘raking’ as a preventative solution.
The ‘Camp Fire’ death toll rose to 48 on Tuesday as the remains of six more victims were found in Northern California. The fire has burned nearly 130,000 acres of land. Officials say the fire is 35% contained. Approximately 9,000 firefighters have been working to combat the deadliest wildfires in state history.
The Northern California Carr Fire which forced over 38,000 people to evacuate their homes and killed at least six slowed down on Sunday after days of growth. The Carr Fire is the most destructive of nearly 90 wildfires burning from Texas to Oregon. Officials said they hope to ‘gain some ground’ on the fire.
US President Donald Trump has threatened to cut federal funding for the wildfires sweeping California, in a Twitter spat with the state’s governor. Nearly 100,000 acres have been destroyed by wildfires in recent weeks, and thousands have been forced from their homes. Mr Trump blamed Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, saying he had done a “terrible job of forest management”.
A power company is cutting electricity to around 800,000 homes, businesses and other locations in Northern California, in an attempt to prevent wildfires. Large swathes of the San Francisco Bay Area – though not the city itself – have lost power, angering residents. The region’s utility company, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), has warned the shutdown could last several days.
The G7 countries have agreed to an immediate $20m (£16m) aid package to help Amazon countries fight wildfires and launch a longer-term global initiative to protect the rainforest. The assistance plan, announced by the French and Chilean presidents on Monday, would involve a program of reforestation, to be unveiled at the UN general assembly meeting next month. Satellite data has recorded more than 41,000 fires in the Amazon region so far this year.
The death toll from the largest wildfire in California history rose to at least 31 with the discovery of additional remains on Sunday. ‘Camp Fire’ brought critical fire conditions and red-flag warnings that are projected to last until Tuesday evening. As winds strengthen, firefighters prepare themselves for the spread of further damage.