Apple Fire Forces 7,800 to Seek Shelter in Coronavirus-Ravaged California
The Apple Fire sparked around 5 p.m. on Friday in Cherry Valley in Riverside County, The San Bernardino Sun reported. Dry air and vegetation fanned the flames, and it is now 20,516 acres and only five percent contained, according to the most recent update from the U.S. Forest Service.
"The fuels are there, and they're ripe," Daron Wyatt, a spokesman for area incident commanders, told The San Bernardino Sun.
#AppleFire timelapse between 9 and 10 PM August 1st. Taken from Mt. Edna just south of Banning. This is just showin… https://t.co/Lx71YUa6YR— Big Rock Moto (@Big Rock Moto)1596379707.0
The blaze has forced around 7,800 people to flee their homes, the Riverside County Fire Department said, according to CNN. But the evacuations have been complicated by the coronavirus pandemic. California has the most cases of any state in the nation and, as of Friday, had broken its daily death record four times in a little over a week, The Guardian reported.
How do you evacuate 7,800 people in a pandemic? A question I was hoping we wouldn't have to answer but wildfire & h… https://t.co/XnzBcZ9K9g— Amy Westervelt (@Amy Westervelt)1596383425.0
Evacuation centers have been set up at hotels and at Beaumont High School, with measures like temperature checks, mask wearing and social distancing in place, Riverside County Fire Department spokesperson Rob Roseen told CNN. But evacuees are still wary of seeking shelter in the school.
"Folks not taking advantage of it over concerns about COVID-19, we have measures in place. We planned for this months ahead," Capt. Fernando Herrera of Cal Fire told CBS Los Angeles.
Instead, the Red Cross has been helping evacuees find hotel rooms, according to LAIst, and families like the Mejias have stopped by the high school asking for their assistance in booking these rooms.
Marcella Mejia fled with her husband, three children, two dogs and 15 chickens Friday night when firefighters knocked on their door and told them to leave. They stayed with neighbors for the first two nights, but then Marcella came seeking out a room.
"We were told when we moved to Banning that it was a very high-risk area for fires," Mejia told LAIst. "But you never imagine this happening."
However, Red Cross volunteer Chris Ellsworth said it was sometimes difficult to find rooms immediately because the Red Cross, fire departments and individuals were all looking at once.
"You have a number of different groups of people looking for the same set of limited resources," Ellsworth told LAIst.
As of Sunday afternoon, the Red Cross had only helped fewer than 40 people.
So far, no one has been injured in the blaze, but one home and two outbuildings were destroyed, CNN reported.
#AppleFIRE [UPDATE] 1 single family dwelling and 2 outbuildings were destroyed by the fire near Avenida Miravilla i… https://t.co/M3OTTfZFoZ— CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department (@CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department)1596293504.0
The Apple Fire in the midst of a pandemic is also an example of how crises can compound each other. The climate crisis is making California's wildfires larger and more extreme, National Geographic pointed out. The state has warmed by about three degrees Fahrenheit this century, and warmer air means drier vegetation.
The Apple Fire in particular is being fueled by vegetation with record-low moisture levels, according to the Forest Service, as well as hot, dry air. Those fire-friendly weather conditions are expected to continue for the next few days.
The fire is also difficult to fight because its north and east sides are burning on steep hillsides that firefighting vehicles cannot access.
The way it is burning also means that it is not safe for firefighters to try and surround it.
"We don't want to put firefighters in a dangerous situation," U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Lisa Cox told The San Bernardino Sun. "It's burning in a straight line up a mountain."
There are 29 hand-crews, 9 Helicopters, 260 Engines, 11 Dozers and 48 Water Tenders battling the blaze, according to the Forest Service.
Smoke from the fire has drifted as far as Phoenix, Arizona.
Incredible GOES-West satellite imagery showing smoke from the #AppleFire making it all the way to #Phoenix this mor… https://t.co/PRSbXubIA9— NWS San Diego (@NWS San Diego)1596383485.0
Locally, the smoke was expected to cause unhealthful air quality in San Gorgonio Pass, the Coachella Valley and eastern Riverside County, according to The San Bernardino Sun.
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Hundreds of endangered sea turtles were stranded on beaches after suffering "cold stunning" in the waters off Cape Cod, Mass. Local rescuers and wildlife rehabilitators stabilized the turtles at the New England Aquarium (NEAQ) and National Marine Life Center and began treatment. Many of the sea turtles were transported by land or air to partner facilities around the Eastern Seaboard for longer-term care to make room for more incoming, cold-stunned animals.
Rehabilitators at The Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys assess critically endangered, cold-stunned Kemp's ridley sea turtles flown in after rescue in New England. The Turtle Hospital<p>NEAQ and local rescuers begin seeing turtles every fall when water temperatures drop to that 50 degrees F threshold, and typically expect to find them into early January. After that, <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/sea-turtle-cape-cod-weather-2621527394.html" target="_self">temperatures are so cold that any animals found are usually no longer alive</a>.</p><p>Merigo estimated that this year's cold season "looks very busy" and noted that local rescue efforts had already surpassed 400 turtles.</p><p>"It is a lot of animals. They're still coming in," she told EcoWatch as she surveyed 39 rescued turtles that day and 20 the day prior. "So far, this is a huge year."</p><p>At NEAQ, the turtles are gradually warmed up about five to 10 degrees F a day. More aggressive warming can cause serious damage and the turtle might not survive, Merigo said. Emergency treatments also include providing replacement fluids, balancing electrolytes and addressing pneumonia. Assessments take place for other serious problems too, such as shell or limb fractures, frostbite, emaciation and eye damage.<span></span></p><p>As local aquariums don't have the capacity to care for all the injured turtles, a group of private pilots called <a href="https://www.turtlesflytoo.org/" target="_blank">"Turtles Fly Too"</a> donated planes, fuel and time to transport some to various partner facilities around the country. Other turtles were driven to closer care facilities.</p><p>"We have a huge network of really great partners working with us, so if we can spread out the care, we can give better care to all the animals," Merigo said.</p><p>The 40 Kemp's ridley sea turtles recovering in The Turtle Hospital will continue to be treated and rehabilitated anywhere from 30 days to a year, depending on the severity of injuries, Zirkelbach said.</p><p>The turtle expert noted that while she's treated cold-stunned turtles from the north before, the newest arrivals were the most cold-stunned Kemp's ridleys ever received at one time.</p>
After rescue, cold-stunned sea turtles received immediate emergency care and assessments at the New England Aquarium. Caitlin Cunningham / New England Aquarium<p>In the past decade, the Gulf of Maine, which spans from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, has warmed 99 percent faster than the rest of the ocean, Zirkelbach said. The warm water encourages turtles that migrate north along the Gulf Stream in warmer months to stay in the bay longer.</p><p>"Turtles that fail to migrate south get stuck in the unique horseshoe-shaped topography of the Cape Cod peninsula, and when temperatures drop, the bay becomes a death trap," she added.</p><p>Before ocean temperatures warmed, the waters of Maine were too cold for many of these sea turtles, Merigo echoed. Now, with warming sea surface temperatures, Maine can reach the high 70s to low 80s, which is "perfect turtle temperature," she said. The potential for more turtles getting trapped in the bay and then cold-stunned is nerve-racking for Merigo.</p><p>In addition to shifting habitats as waters warm, warming global temperatures also disrupt natural gender balance in sea turtles, Merigo warned. Gender is determined by the temperature of eggs in nests, and as the planet warms, it will result in all females at some point, she said.</p><p>"The turtles we work with are all endangered and threatened," Merigo said. "For sea turtles in general, the future is a little grim. Climate change is real; it does impact them."</p>
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