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California Battles Wildfires

Mendocino National Forest —(Map)

California has been fighting wildfires across the state for over a month. Two of the largest fires have joined to create the largest wildfire in California’s history.

Forests have always had wildfires. It may seem strange, but having some wildfires is actually good for forests. Fires can make the dirt better for growing. Wildfires can also lead to more different kinds of plants and animals living in a forest.

Carr Fire
So far this year, there have been over 4,700 wildfires in California.
Tens of thousands of people have had to leave their homes.
(Source: CAL FIRE, via Wikimedia Commons.)

But there are too many fires in California, and they are destroying too much. So far this year, there have been over 4,700 wildfires in California. Tens of thousands of people have had to leave their homes.

On August 4, a national disaster was declared. That will make it easier to get money and supplies to fight the fires.

Like many places in the world, California has had very hot weather recently. Temperatures in some parts of California are supposed to reach 110° Fahrenheit (43° Celsius) this week. The heat has dried plants and trees out, making them burn much more easily. There has not been much rain, so there’s nothing naturally slowing the fires down. And there have been strong winds, which have made the fires stronger and spread them faster.

Flying over the Thomas Fire, Dec. 9, 2017, in Ventura County, California.
There are more than 12 large wildfires burning in California right now.
This picture was taken during the biggest wildfire in 2017.
(Source: U.S. Dept of Agriculture Senior Airman Crystal Housman/California National Guard, via Wikimedia Commons.)

There are thousands of smaller fires burning in California, but it’s the bigger ones that have people really worried. There are over 12 very large wildfires right now.

The Carr fire has been burning since July 23. It has burned 275 square miles (713 square kilometers). Seven people have died because of the fire, and it has destroyed over 1,600 buildings.

Carr Fire burning at night
The Carr fire has been burning since July 23.
It has burned 275 square miles (713 square kilometers).
(Source: By CAL FIRE, via Wikimedia Commons.)

But the Carr fire is not the biggest fire. Earlier this week, two smaller fires joined together. They became the largest recorded wildfire in California’s history. The fire is called the Mendocino Complex fire. So far it has burned 443 square miles (1,148 square kilometers). It has not killed anyone yet.

California has more than 14,000 people fighting the fire. That’s more than they’ve ever had before.

A California National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk crews drop water on the Ponderosa wildfires near Redding, Calif.
The firefighters are using fire engines, helicopters, and airplanes.
(This picture is from a wildfire in 2012.)
(Source: The National Guard, via Wikimedia Commons.)

The firefighters are using fire engines, helicopters, and airplanes. The helicopters and airplanes drop water to try and control the fire. Sometimes they also drop chemicals which can cool or slow the fire.

The smoke from all these fires can be easily seen from space. The smoke has made the air in most of California much less healthy to breathe.

The smoke from the wildfires can be easily seen from space.
The smoke from the wildfires can be easily seen from space.
It has made the air in most of California less healthy to breathe.
(Source: NASA .)

California always has wildfires at this time of year. It is wildfire season. But the weather patterns brought by climate change  have brought more and larger wildfires in recent years. Climate change also makes it likely that there will be more larger fires in the future.

People in California are working hard to control the wildfires. But they know that they will need to be patient and keep working. They are setting records now and they are only halfway through wildfire season.

Mendocino National Forest


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