Northern California air quality worsens amid wildfires
Wildfires burning in Northern California, including the rapidly spreading Caldor fire, are affecting more people than just those forced to evacuate. Anthony Wexler, director of the Air Quality Research Center at the University of California, Davis, said air quality in the area is getting worse every day.
“I can see the sun just fine,” he said, “and it doesn’t bother me at all.”
Air quality is forecast to remain unhealthy levels Thursday in the Sacramento area, where the Caldor fire has been growing rapidly throughout the week. It has consumed more than 62,000 acres in less than a week, destroyed buildings in the small community of Grizzly Flats and forced the emergency closure of the Eldorado National Forest.
The fire has injured two people and is zero percent contained.
The Dixie fire, the second largest fire in the state’s recorded history, has been spreading north for more than a month, burning more than 635,000 acres in Butte, Plumas, Lassen and Tehana counties. It is 35 percent vested.
Cal Fire said Wednesday that fire activity increased as smoke cleared and a change in wind direction on the west side of the Dixie Fire. On the eastern side, an incident commander, Geoff Belia, said “the fire was behavior that many of our experienced and experienced firefighters had yet to see in their careers.”
“I’m not going to sugarcoat it: It was a bare-knuckle fight,” he said.
Two other active fires in the state, the McFarland fire in Shasta County and the Memorial fire in Trinity County, have each burned more than 100,000 acres.
Given the size of the fire, Mr. Wexler said, “there is only so much firefighters can do.”
“My prediction is that some of these fires are going to be here until it rains,” he said, “which hopefully will be October, and not after that.”
While wildfires occur across the West every year, scientists see the effects of climate change in extreme heat waves, which have contributed to the intensity of fires this summer. They say long periods of unusually high temperatures are a sign of a changing climate.
In addition to wildfires along the West Coast, firefighters are battling several smaller blazes in the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota. The largest of those fires, the Greenwood fire, is about 4,000 acres and is “moving very quickly due to strong gusts of wind and dry vegetation,” officials said this week. It has forced some evacuations after being struck by lightning on Sunday.
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