The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
31 Killed in Deadliest Week for Wildfires in California History
The death toll from the Northern California blazes has risen to 31, the deadliest week for wildfires in the state's history.
"We had series of statewide fires in 2003, 2007, 2008 that didn't have anything close to this death count," said Daniel Berlant, a deputy director with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The 31 deaths this week surpasses the single deadliest wildfire in state history—the Griffith Park fire of 1933 in Los Angeles which killed 29 people—according to the New York Times.
About 3,500 homes and other structures have been destroyed and thousand have been forced to flee. Hundreds of people have been injured or reported missing. The fires have also released devastating air pollution.
"We are reporting the worst air quality ever recorded for smoke in many parts of the Bay Area," Tom Flannigan, a spokesman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, told the East Bay Times. "This is similar to what you see in Beijing, China in bad air days there.
More than 8,000 firefighters are combatting the flames and many have become weary over the past week.
"We're pretty exhausted. It's pretty steep terrain. We've been dealing with trying to save the structures," Sonoma firefighter Steven Moore told NPR, adding he has gotten little little sleep in four days of fighting fires.
"The winds aren't helping," Moore says. "All we can do is get to the structures as fast as we possibly can and save what we can."
Pope Francis sent a telegram Friday to San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez expressing his condolences and offered "heartfelt solidarity" and "prayers for all those affected by this disaster."
Fire officials are preparing for conditions to worsen with high winds expected to return.
"Tonight the winds are forecast to be stronger than experienced Thursday with gusts up to 45 miles an hour," Cal Fire said.
A Red Flag Warning—the highest alert issued by the National Weather Service in which conditions are ideal for wildland fire combustion and rapid spread—has been issued for Friday night, when winds are expected to increase again.
"Hundreds of additional fire engines and firefighters have begun to arrive from several other states, not only to help relieve crews on the frontlines, but to be ready for the possibility of new wildfires that may ignite during the Red Flag Warnings," Cal Fire said.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Mancini
On Aug. 18, Iceland held a funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change. The deceased party was Okjökull, a historic body of ice that covered 14.6 square miles (38 square kilometers) in the Icelandic Highlands at the turn of the 20th century. But its glory days are long gone. In 2014, having dwindled to less than 1/15 its former size, Okjökull lost its status as an official glacier.
By Alex Schwartz
Among the many vendors at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18 sat three young people peddling neither organic vegetables, gourmet cheese nor handmade crafts. Instead, they offered liberation from capitalism.
I’m a Psychotherapist – Here’s What I’ve Learned From Listening to Children Talk About Climate Change
By Caroline Hickman
Eco-anxiety is likely to affect more and more people as the climate destabilizes. Already, studies have found that 45 percent of children suffer lasting depression after surviving extreme weather and natural disasters. Some of that emotional turmoil must stem from confusion — why aren't adults doing more to stop climate change?
For the past seven years, the Anishinaabe people have been facing the largest tar sands pipeline project in North America. We still are. In these dying moments of the fossil fuel industry, Water Protectors stand, prepared for yet another battle for the water, wild rice and future of all. We face Enbridge, the largest pipeline company in North America, and the third largest corporation in Canada. We face it unafraid and eyes wide open, for indeed we see the future.
By Mara Dolan
We see the effects of the climate crisis all around us in hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, and rising sea levels, but our proximity to these things, and how deeply our lives are changed by them, are not the same for everyone. Frontline groups have been leading the fight for environmental and climate justice for centuries and understand the critical connections between the climate crisis and racial justice, economic justice, migrant justice, and gender justice. Our personal experiences with climate change are shaped by our experiences with race, gender, and class, as the climate crisis often intensifies these systems of oppression.