The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
After a Quiet Summer, 'Dangerous' California Wildfire Burns Equivalent of 753 Football Fields in Five Hours
The Tenaja Fire jumped from 25 acres when it was first reported Wednesday afternoon to 994 acres just five hours later. As of 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the blaze had spread to 1,974 acres and was 10 percent contained, The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) reported. The fire-fighting agency said the blaze was moving at a "dangerous rate of speed," according to TIME.
The fire broke out in La Cresta, California in Riverside County and was named for a road near where it ignited. It has since spread to other cities including Murrieta, California, a town of 104,000 people 80 miles south of Los Angeles. Since Wednesday, around 415 homes and 1,200 people had been evacuated, Riverside County Fire Department spokesperson Jody Hagemann told TIME. Others are waiting for an evacuation order.
"It's scary," Murrieta resident Bob Campini told ABC7. "We've packed up. We're waiting to see if we're going to get evacuated or not."
Schools in the Murrieta Unified School District were closed Thursday, and more area districts said they would close Friday, according to ABC7. Public health officials also warned residents to protect themselves from smoke by staying indoors as much as possible.
"Ash and smoke can be hard on anyone to breathe, but especially those with lung disease," Riverside County public health official Dr. Cameron Kaiser said in a statement reported by TIME. "Everyone worries about the flames, but smoke can impact you even if you're miles away from the fire."
More than 800 firefighters battled the flames, but they struggled due to "difficult terrain" and shifting winds, ABC7 reported.
"The winds will come out of one direction in the morning, to where the wind will be blowing out toward the ocean, and then by the afternoon, we'll get a 180 degree switch in the wind direction and the fire will tend to start burning downhill and start coming back into neighborhoods," CAL FIRE Division Chief Todd Hopkins told ABC7.
The immediate cause of the fire is unknown, but lightning strikes were observed in the area Wednesday.
The blaze comes after a relatively quiet year for California wildfires, The Los Angeles Times pointed out. Fires burned more than 1.2 million acres in 2017 and 1.8 million acres in 2018, but only 51,079 acres as of Aug. 18 this year. Experts attribute the change to cooler temperatures, late spring rains and less extreme winds in 2019. In general, the rise in California wildfires has been attributed in part to the climate crisis.
- The Arctic Is Burning: Wildfires Rage from Sweden to Alaska ... ›
- 550,000 Acres on Fire in Alaska in Latest Sign of the Climate Crisis ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Allegra Kirkland, Jeremy Deaton, Molly Taft, Mina Lee and Josh Landis
Climate change is already here. It's not something that can simply be ignored by cable news or dismissed by sitting U.S. senators in a Twitter joke. Nor is it a fantastical scenario like The Day After Tomorrow or 2012 that starts with a single crack in the Arctic ice shelf or earthquake tearing through Los Angeles, and results, a few weeks or years later, in the end of life on Earth as we know it.
Air pollution particles that a pregnant woman inhales have the potential to travel through the lungs and breach the fetal side of the placenta, indicating that unborn babies are exposed to black carbon from motor vehicles and fuel burning, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.
Teen activist Greta Thunberg delivered a talking-to to members of Congress Tuesday during a meeting of the Senate Climate Change Task Force after politicians praised her and other youth activists for their efforts and asked their advice on how to fight climate change.
The University of California system will dump all of its investments from fossil fuels, as the Associated Press reported. The university system controls over $84 billion between its pension fund and its endowment. However, the announcement about its investments is not aimed to please activists.
By Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
World leaders have a formidable task: setting a course to save our future. The extreme weather made more frequent and severe by climate change is here. This spring, devastating cyclones impacted 3 million people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Record heatwaves are hitting Europe and other regions — this July was the hottest month in modern record globally. Much of India is again suffering severe drought.
By Mark Hertsgaard
The United Nations Secretary General says that he is counting on public pressure to compel governments to take much stronger action against what he calls the climate change "emergency."