The deadly Carr Fire burning in Northern California can now claim an unfortunate milestone: It has officially cracked the list of the 10 most destructive bushfires to ever beset California.
The latest update from CAL FIRE shows that 966 structures have been destroyed, making the Carr Fire the eighth-most destructive bushfire to hit the state.
At only 20 per cent contained, the fire still poses a risk to 5012 more structures, according to CAL FIRE, meaning that amount of property lost (and its ranking on the list) could rise, especially as assessment crews are able to access more areas that were hit by the fire.
At least six people are dead and more are missing, numbers that could sadly also rise.
The majority of the losses have occurred in neighbourhoods on the north and western side of Redding, a city of 90,000 located on Interstate 5 about two and a half hours north of Sacramento.
The Carr Fire rushed into town on Thursday night local time, jumping the Sacramento River and continuing its rampant growth on the backs of gusty winds and 43C heat. The fire continued to grow over the weekend, doubling in size from day to day before it slowed down on Sunday night. As of Monday, the fire has burned 98,724 acres.
The heat in particular has led to near-record-low vegetation moisture, leaving trees, shrubs and grassland primed to go up in smoke. Vegetation has burned so intensely that the fire has sparked a vortex of smoke and flames, twisting fire tornadoes, and towering pyrocumulus clouds. Smoke has blanketed much of Northern California, spiking air quality to unhealthy levels.
Four of the 10 most destructive fires in state history have occurred in the past year, and eight of them have happened since 2000. Three of them occurred last year alone as part of the conflagration in Wine Country and the Thomas Fire that hit Southern California.
This US bushfire season has proven to be catastrophic as well. Beyond the Carr Fire, bushfires have burned 410,000 acres, more than double the average for this point in the year, according to statistics compiled by Steven Bowen, a meteorologist at insurance company Aon Benfield.
The dangerous Ferguson Fire caused Yosemite Valley to be evacuated as a safety precaution last week. And earlier this month, the County Fire ripped through Yolo County, eating up 1000 acres of land per hour at its peak as onlookers watched its advance from a casino parking garage.
The stories of this US fire season and last reflect two troubling realities: Climate change is increasing the risk of conditions that lead to explosive fires, and a growing number of people are living at what scientists call the urban-wildland fire interface. It’s a dangerous combination that could further rewrite the record books.