California’s scary wildfire season, which has scorched a record 1.5 million hectares, isn’t over yet. Throughout the Northern California, tens of thousands of people are vacating their homes again as new fires ignited across the region.
Over the weekend, triple-digit heat, low humidity, and strong Diablo winds fanned the flames of two fires, the Zogg Fire in Shasta County and the Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma counties. By Sunday night, the fires burned 2,800 hectares and 4,400 hectares respectively, according to Cal Fire.
Officials issued widespread evacuation warnings. The latter blaze, which began as a grass fire in wine country early Sunday morning, at least 1,800 people under mandatory evacuation orders as the fast-moving blazes burn through towns that have dealt with or been on the fringe of other massive fires in recent years. No injuries have been reported, but many homes were burned overnight, as were wineries and inns that the area is known for. Officials don’t yet know how much damage has been done, but according to Cal Fire, more than 8,500 structures are threatened. The Glass Fire’s flames also forced hospital workers at Adventist Health St Helena to clear out their facility as the fire blazed just a mile away, marking their second forced fire evacuation in roughly a month. Over five hours, all 55 patients who were at the hospital were evacuated safely. As of Monday morning, the fire remained 0% contained.
South of the Glass Fire, another nearby blaze known as the Shady Fire is also currently burning through Santa Rosa, the largest city in Sonoma County. A number of neighbourhoods on the northern and eastern side of the city of 177,000 are under evacuation orders. Images captured by local photographers show blocks of houses were on fire overnight, although the amount of damage has not yet been officially assessed. It comes just three years after the 2017 Tubbs Fire, which was also the result of strong winds, destroyed thousands of homes and other structures in the area, and a year after the Kincade Fire burned further east.
Nearby, a third blaze, the Boyson Fire, is also creeping nearer to the area and forcing further evacuations.
It’s not just wine country that’s threatened by the wildfires raging through Northern California. In Butte County, the North Complex Fire, which first lit up in mid-August, regained strength. The entire town of Paradise and the communities of Magalia and Concow were put under evacuation warnings. The area is still rebuilding after the Camp Fire in November 2018, California’s most destructive fire on record.
The risk continues into Monday evening, with the National Weather Service issuing a red flag warning. The alert of dangerous fire weather is in place until 9 p.m. local time and may be extended.
Amid the fires, PG&E — the state’s largest electric utility — said it would temporarily halt power to transmission lines in parts of 16 counties across northern and central California in an attempt to decrease further fire risk. The shutoffs are expected to affect 65,000 residents.
This year, fires have claimed more than 30 lives throughout the state. With hot, dry, and windy conditions remaining, they could exact a further toll. Late last week, an analysis of more than 100 studies found that the climate crisis is playing an “unequivocal and pervasive” role in creating conditions for these catastrophic fires in California. Leaders need to take real steps to curb global warming fast in order to ensure fire seasons in the future won’t be even worse.