With more than 20 active fires small and very large tearing across the state, California Gov. Jerry Brown warned today that “nature is powerful, and we’re not on the side of nature,” and that devastating blazes are “the new normal.”
The Carr Fire in Shasta and Trinity counties, which was sparked July 23 by a non-criminal vehicle fire at Highway 299 and Carr Powerhouse Road west of Redding, Calif., has burned more than 115,000 acres and was 35 percent contained as of this morning. It’s now ranked as the sixth most destructive wildfire in the state’s history after killing six and destroying more than a thousand homes.
Cal Fire said that “steep terrain, erratic winds, and previously unburned fuels are contributing to spot fire potential.” More than 4,100 firefighters are battling the blaze.
Along with a bulldozer contract employee and a Redding firefighter killed in the Carr Fire, the captain of a wildland hotshots team and a Cal Fire heavy equipment operator have been killed in the Ferguson fire burning near Yosemite in Mariposa County. The more than 62,000-acre blaze was 39 percent contained this afternoon.
At a state Office of Emergency Services press conference today, Brown said firefighters would have to adapt to increasingly severe wildfires in the years to come because of climate change.
“We’re fighting nature with the amount of material we’re putting in the environment, and that material traps heat, and the heat fosters fires, and the fires keep burning,” he said.
The governor added that “since civilization emerged 10,000 years ago, we haven’t had this kind of heat condition, and it’s going to continue getting worse and that’s the way it is.”
“Some people don’t want to accept that, some just outright deny it,” Brown continued. “I don’t say it with any great joy here – we’re in for a very rough ride. It’s going to get expensive. It’s going to get dangerous, and we have to apply all our creativity to make the best of what is going to be an increasingly bad situation, not just for California, but for people all over America and all over the world.”
Brown said the state’s budget would also have to figure in the cost of increased fire fury in the upcoming years. “So far, this fire activity is a small part of our very large budget, but it is growing and it will continue to grow as we adapt to the changing weather,” he said.
The governor said that steps to combat global warming can still, eventually, “shift the weather back to where it historically was.”