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California’s Carr Fire Grows Larger and More Deadly

Climate
California’s Carr Fire Grows Larger and More Deadly
A deer stands on a road covered in flame retardant used to fight the Carr Fire. JOSH EDELSON / AFP / Getty Images

The Carr Fire, which blazed into the northern California town of Redding Thursday, has grown even larger and deadlier over the weekend, offering a fiery vision of California's future.


"This is climate change, for real and in real time. We were warned that the atmospheric buildup of man-made greenhouse gas would eventually be an existential threat," The Sacramento Bee wrote in an editorial about the fire Friday.

The fire, which doubled in size Saturday and is only 5 percent contained, has burned 89,194 acres since it sparked a week ago and has lead to six deaths, CNN reported Monday.

Those fatalities included 70-year-old Melody Bledsoe and her great-grandchildren Emily and James Roberts.

The three had been declared missing when their home went up in flames Thursday, and their deaths were confirmed Saturday.

"With a heavy heart we are sad to inform you all that Mel and the great-grandbabies were confirmed to be in the home," surviving family members wrote on a GoFundMe page, as reported by CNN.

Another civilian was also found dead in a house and two people died fighting the fire: Redding fire department Jeremy Stoke and an unnamed bulldozer operator whose death was also reported by EcoWatch Friday.

"This fire is scary to us. This is something we haven't seen before in the city," Redding Police Chief Roger Moore told reporters Friday, according to CNN.

The fire has burned 517 structures and is being fought by 3,000 firefighters, CNN reported.

It has forced 38,000 to evacuate and President Donald Trump has pledged federal aid to affected counties, BBC News reported.

One factor that makes the Carr Fire particularly dangerous is the way that the flames are interacting with gail-force winds.

"This fire was whipped up into a whirlwind of activity" Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott told BBC News, "Uprooting trees, moving vehicles, moving parts of roadways."

These "firenado" conditions are similar to the ones that made last year's October wildfires in the northern Bay Area so deadly, The Sacramento Bee reported Friday.

Both fires were spurred on by high temperatures, high winds and dry vegetation. But while last year's fires were driven by winds of 60 miles per hour, the Carr Fire is driven by winds of 10 to 30 miles per hour, and the fire itself is creating its own stronger winds.

"These fire-induced winds were very strong and unpredictable and drove this fire from dry brush and trees into urban areas," University of Los Angeles climate scientist Daniel Swain told The Sacramento Bee.

The dry vegetation is one reason why the 2018 California wildfire season has seen the most acreage burnt by July 9 in ten years, The Mercury News reported.

Dry vegetation is so plentiful because of all the plants killed by the 2012 to 2017 drought, as well as the fact that the winter of 2017-2018 was drier than normal.

"We are going to be dealing with the impacts of that drought for many years," Cal Fire Deputy Chief Scott McLean told The Mercury News.

Fire season, which used to begin in October, is also getting earlier and earlier because of global warming, The Sacramento Bee reported.

"We have these long, hot, dry summers that are getting progressively drier," Swain told The Sacramento Bee. "We're not at the end of summer yet."

In Friday's editorial, The Sacramento Bee urged the state to plan for this new normal by improving preparedness and evacuation warning systems, and by taking into account the way that fires are likely to exacerbate the state's housing shortage.

"California must plan now for these and other aspects of global warming, as more of the state becomes too hot, too dry, or too fire- or flood-prone to safely live in, and as more of the world braces for the era of climate refugees," the paper advised.

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