California continues its battle against the biggest fire in the state’s history, along with a reported 11 other fires. Since July 27th, the Mendocino Complex fires — a combination of two smaller fires — have burned over 300,000 acres. The blaze continues to grow, with SFGATE reporting the fires currently only 60 percent contained. The good news is that the Mendocino Complex fires have been in mainly remote areas and have yet to cause any fatalities.
The just-as-concerning Carr Fire has (as of Thursday, August 9th) burned over 181,000 acres since July 23rd, and has taken 8 lives, including a woman and her two great-grandchildren. Over a thousand buildings have been destroyed in the Carr fire, and hundreds more destroyed by the Mendocino Complex fires.
14,000 firefighters are currently fighting the blazes, with fighters coming from as far away as New Zealand and Australia, along with volunteer fighters from local California prisons. The smoke from the fires, as well has heavy winds, has become so intense that it is affecting the entirety of the country. According to forecasts from the National Weather Service, smoke is being carried from California across the U.S. and hitting the east coast, as far as 3,000 miles away.
U.S. President Donald Trump has been tweeting about the fires. In a now deleted tweet from Sunday, August 5th, Trump stated that “California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized”. The next day he tweeted criticism of (Democratic) California Governor Jerry Brown: “Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else.”
Trump’s remarks have been deemed entirely inaccurate by California fire experts. Daniel Berlant — assistant deputy director of the California state fire agency Cal Fire — responded to Trump’s later remarks, tweeting “We have plenty of water to fight these wildfires, but let’s be clear: It’s our changing climate that is leading to more severe and destructive fires.”
The large fires mentioned have not been linked to arson — unlike the recent Holy Fire allegedly caused by 51-year-old Forrest Clark — meaning that the changing environmental conditions are likely to blame.
The U.S. president’s continued resistance to any remarks on the link between the disastrous fires and climate change, as well as his history of denying climate change, continues to leave many baffled and concerned.