Shifting weather brings new threats as US interior secretary blames environmental radicals for devastating wildfires
Heavy rains forecast across the state this week threaten mudslides and floods in the burn areas and misery for the displaced, who are camping outside. The rain looms as agencies scramble to assist the tens of thousands left without homes, repopulate evacuees to areas still threatened by fire-damaged infrastructure, and continue search and rescue efforts.
The new threats come as Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary, blamed environmental radicals for the destructive wildfire during a visit to the scorched town of Paradise over the weekend. Zinke told reporters that now was not the time to point fingers. He then pointed his own at activists, whom he blames for their pushback against the thinning of the forests.
Read more Speaking with Breitbart news on Sunday, Zinke said: I will lay this on the foot of those environmental radicals that have prevented us from managing the forests for years. And you know what? This is on them.Scientific assessments and consensus from fire officials hold that the worsening wildfires – and accompanying risk of mudslides – are fueled by climate change, yet the Trump administration has continued to blame environmentalists.
New satellite footage showing the devastation wreaked by wildfires in northern California has been released.
The Camp fire killed at least 79, left hundreds unaccounted for and razed the town of Paradise in northern California, engulfing 12,637 homes. Now 70% contained, the fire has burned across 151,373 acres in areas that are now facing inclement weather.
Margaret Newsum, 93, had no idea that the Camp Fire was rapidly approaching her Magalia home until her caretaker left for the day and she turned on the television. She was quickly rescued by her friend Dane Ray Cummings, who decided to break company policy and rescue Newsum with his Waste Management truck. KCRA reports.
Firefighters Discuss Fatigue, Health Concerns During Wildfire Season
Its going to become a mud pit tomorrow and a health hazard from human waste, a volunteer, Jennifer Morse, said of the Walmart parking lot in Chico, where almost 140 tents remain pitched, despite talk that the encampment was to be cleared this past Sunday. Morse estimated that half the campers were fire evacuees and that another half were already homeless in Chico and the Paradise area.
“We put the list out. It will fluctuate. It will go up. It will go down because this is in a state of flux,” Honea said Monday. “My view on this has been that I would prefer to get the information out and start working to find who is unaccounted for and who is not. I would put progress over perfection.”
The National Weather Service issued flash flood watches through the end of the week and warned of winds gusting up to 40mph that could bring down fire damaged trees.
Agencies have already begin shifting resources from the firefight to fire aftermath, warning residents of the possibility of downed power lines, leaking propane, shut-down services, and embers that could reignite homes.
Time is of the essence, the Cal Fire assistant deputy director Matthew Reischman said in a video posted the agencys website, adding that structural protection and sandbags are being provided to aid in preparation. We are going to identify those areas very rapidly, as quick as we can, and then establish emergency protective measures to put them in place, so when the rains come this winter we will be able to provide them as soon as we can.
The rain risks are lower in the southern part of the state, where the Woolsey fire tore through 96,949 acres, scorching 1,500 structures and killing three. But officials are still concerned over possible precipitation: burn areas can remain in danger of increased debris flows for years after high-intensity fires.
When you have the high intensity burns, carbon in the soil seals the soils surface, Christian Renschler, a disaster response expert and professor of geography at University at Buffalo, explained why the water isnt absorbed into the parched earth.
1:02 I just want to break down: the California wildfire victims living in a parking lot – video And it is not only the runoff in terms of the water, he adds. These debris flows are so heavy and full of sediment and ash – anything that has washed off – it is almost like a cement-type of mixture that is running down the landscape.
Because of the increasing intensity and scale of the fires, the mudslides could be worse than ever before. This is the cascading effect, Renschler said, adding that infrastructure and roads that survived the flames could now be taken out by the mud, and toxic ash and rubble could run into reservoirs.
These fires are so large it would take some time and also a significant financial effort to prepare all the areas that would be at risk. What they need to do is set priorities for which ones are most likely endangering people.
Its been 12 days since Christina Taft started the frantic search for her mother Victoria, who refused to evacuate their Paradise home as flames neared, and six days since she gave authorities a cheek swab to identify remains that are likely her mothers.
Read more Zinkes comments in Paradise were not his first controversial remarks in the aftermath of a fire. In August, he took issue with scientific research that links wildfires to climate change and said: America is better than letting these radical groups control the dialogue about climate change.
His comments followed criticism over statements from Donald Trump, who forgot the towns name and repeated his claims that fires were caused by forest mismanagement.
“When you become fatigued your decision making may not be at its best in that when youre tired and youre an engine operator, you have the lives of your firefighters and potentially the lives of your community in your houses so you have to be able to make sound judgments, he said
Over the weekend, Californias governor, Jerry Brown, struck a different tone and emphasized the climate threat. We are in for very difficult times, he said. We will have problems in the years to come. Get ready – because we are always under some kind of threat.
“Last year on the Thomas Fire in December, granted it was SoCal, here we are in Northern California doing the same thing even on a more devastating level than what we were doing in winter months,” he said. “We need to have fully staffed paid year-round fire department.”
The Californian towns which have been ravaged by wildfires over the last two weeks will be soaked by rain on Tuesday and Wednesday which will slow down the chaotic search for the nearly 1,000 people who remain missing.
At least 82 people have been confirmed dead as a result of the devastating wildfires in Paradise and further south near Los Angeles and the death toll is expected to rise dramatically as teams continue to comb through the debris.
Seventy-nine of the victims were killed by the Camp Fire and three were killed in the Woolsey fire. Of the 79 bodies found in Paradise, 64 have been identified.
The official number of people who remain missing has fluctuated drastically in the last week and authorities are urging caution in reporting the numbers but as of Tuesday, the missing list kept by Butte County Sheriffs Office in Paradise has 699 names on it.
That does not include all those missing as a result of the Woolsey fire in Los Angeles County where officials are yet to reveal how many remain unaccounted for.
Among the biggest problems is the difficulty in identifying the torched remains, many of which are burned beyond recognition. Some survivors say they are being told that remains have been found on their loved ones properties but no one will confirm if they belong to their missing relatives.
Emergency services are still combing through the debris in Paradise, California, more than two weeks since it ravaged the city. More than 699 people remain missing and heavy rain forecast for Tuesday through to Wednesday night is not only going to hamper search efforts but will pose the fresh risk of mudslides and rockslides
Butte County Sheriff Kery Honea, who said he is overwhelmed with the situation on Monday, said he knew the list – which is incomplete and raw – was not perfect but that he wanted to get information out to the public.
We put the list out. It will fluctuate. It will go up. It will go down because this is in a state of flux.
My view on this has been that I would prefer to get the information out and start working to find who is unaccounted for and who is not. I would put progress over perfection, he said.
The Woolsey fire is now 96 percent contained and firefighters expect it to be completely extinguished by November 22.
The Camp fire is 60 percent contained. On Monday, experts said they predicted it will burn for another 10 days before being entirely put out.
This is unprecedented. No one has had to deal with this magnitude that caused so much destruction and regrettably so much death, Butte County Sheriff Butte Kory Honea said on Monday.
The rain forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday will bring relief to the areas with the worst air pollution and where the fires are still burning but they will pose other problems.
As much as four inches of rain is forecast in Chico, were Paradise evacuees are sheltering, and in the town itself between Wednesday and Sunday.
Once you get the first real rain, the fire season comes to an end. The fire threat falls significantly.
But it is a double-edged sword, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski told USA Today.
As of Monday, the Camp fire had torched more than 151,000 acres (61,100 hectares) of parched scrub and trees, incinerating about 12,000 homes along the way, Cal Fire said.
Efforts to further suppress the flames were likely to benefit from a storm expected to dump as much as 4 inches of rain north of San Francisco between late Tuesday and Friday, said Patrick Burke, a National Weather Service forecaster.
Colleen Fitzpatrick, founder of the California-based consulting company Identifinders International, said rain would turn the site into a muddy, mushy mess, slick with wet ash.
Rescue teams search a torched site in Paradise, California, on Monday in a race against the weather