Flames burn up a tree as part of the Windy Fire in the Trail of 100 Giants grove last month in Sequoia National Forest, Calif.Noah Berger/AP
LOS ANGELES — Northern California wildfires may have killed hundreds of giant sequoias as they swept through groves of the majestic monarchs in the Sierra Nevada, an official said Wednesday.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Christy Brigham, head of resource management and science for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks.
The lightning-caused KNP Complex that erupted on Sept. 9 has burned into 15 giant sequoia groves in the park, Brigham said.
More than 2,000 firefighters were battling the blaze in sometimes treacherous terrain. On Wednesday afternoon, four people working on the fire were injured when a tree fell on them, the National Park Service reported.
The four were airlifted to hospitals and “while the injuries are serious, they are in stable condition,” the report said. It didn’t provide other details.
The KNP Complex was only 11% contained after burning 134 square miles (347 square kilometers) of forest. Cooler weather has helped slow the flames and the area could see some slight rain on Friday, forecasters said.
The fire’s impact on giant sequoia groves was mixed. Most saw low- to medium-intensity fire behavior that the sequoias have evolved to survive, Brigham said.Article continues after sponsor messagehttps://aceda22c35b90ff6f953bfabead7e4f4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
However, it appeared that two groves — including one with 5,000 trees — were seared by high-intensity fire that can send up 100-foot (30-meter) flames capable of burning the canopies of the towering trees.
That leaves the monarchs at risk of going up “like a horrible Roman candle,” Brigham said.
Two burned trees fell in Giant Forest, which is home to about 2,000 sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree, which is considered the world’s largest by volume. However, the most notable trees survived and Brigham said the grove appeared to be mostly intact.
Firefighters have taken extraordinary measures to protect the sequoias by wrapping fire-resistant material around the bases of some giants, raking and clearing vegetation around them, installing sprinklers and dousing some with water or fire retardant gel.
However, the full extent of the damage won’t be known for months, Brigham said. Firefighters are still occupied protecting trees, homes and lives or can’t safely reach steep, remote groves that lack roads or even trails, she said.
To the south, the Windy Fire had burned at least 74 sequoias, Garrett Dickman told the Los Angeles Times. The wildfire botanist has recorded damage as part of a sequoia task force preparing and assessing trees in the fire zone.
In one grove, Dickman counted 29 sequoias that were “just incinerated,” he told CNN.
“There were four of those that had burned so hot that they’d fallen over,” he said.
The 152-acre (395-square-kilometer) fire was 75% contained.
Giant sequoias grow naturally only in the Sierra Nevada. The world’s most massive trees, they can soar to more than 250 feet (76 meters) with trunks 20 feet (6 meters) in diameter and live for thousands of years.
The trees need low-intensity fire to reproduce. Flames thin out the forest of competitors such as cedars, clearing away shade, and the heat causes the seedlings to open. But fire officials say recent blazes have been much more intense because fire suppression efforts left more undergrowth that’s turned bone dry from drought, driven by climate change.
Last year’s Castle Fire in and around Sequoia National Park is estimated to have killed as many as 10,600 giant sequoias, or 10% to 14% of the entire population.
While some groves may have received only patchy fire damage and will recover, every burned giant sequoia is a loss, Brigham said.
“When you stand by a tree that big and that old, 1,000 to 2,000 years old, the loss of any is a heartbreak,” she said. “You can’t get it back, it’s irreplaceable.”
California fires have burned more than 3,000 square miles (7,800 square kilometers) so far in 2021, destroying more than 3,000 homes, commercial properties and other structures. Hotter and drier weather coupled with decades of fire suppression have contributed to an increase in the number of acres burned by wildfires, fire scientists say. And the problem is exacerbated by a more than 20-year Western megadrought that studies link to human-caused climate change.
New study addresses the effects of fires on biodiversity loss in the world’s largest forest during the last two decades.
Researchers measured the impacts on the habitats of 14,000 species of plants and animals, finding that 93 to 95% suffered some consequence of the fires.
Primates were the most affected, as they depend on trees for movement, food and shelter. Rare and endemic species with restricted habitats suffered the strongest impacts.
The study assessed two decades of fires between 2001 and 2019 and confirmed the impact of environmental policies on deforestation cycles in the Amazon; law enforcement was concluded to have direct impact on the extent and volume of fires.
Since 2019, deforestation and fires have caused the Brazilian Amazon to lose about 10,000 square kilometers of forest cover per year – a high and alarming increase over the previous decade, when the annual reduction in forest area was close to 6,500 square kilometers, according to data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
However, until very recently, experts had measured only the vegetation in areas destroyed; never had the biodiversity loss caused by fires been assessed. A new scientific study published in Nature – “How deregulation, drought and increasing fire impact Amazonian biodiversity” – translates this impact into numbers: to a greater or lesser extent, 93 to 95% of 14,000 species of plants and animals have already suffered some kind of consequence of the Amazon’s fires.
The study, which involved researchers from universities and institutions in the U.S., Brazil and the Netherlands, analyzed data on the distribution of fires in the Amazon between 2001 and 2019, when the region saw record rates of major fires, despite high rainfall.
“At the time, the fires attracted a lot of international media attention, and we were interested in better understanding their consequences, where they had happened, and which areas were occupied by fauna and flora,” says biologist Mathias Pires, a professor and researcher at the Department of Animal Biology at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp).
Using satellite images, the researchers compared the areas affected by fires – from 103,079 to 189,755 square kilometers of the Amazon rainforest – with habitats of 11,514 plant species and 3,079 animals (including vertebrates, birds and mammals).
“We were surprised to find that the habitats of most plant and animal species had already been affected by fires and that this impact continued to increase over time, despite the best conservation efforts,” says Brian Enquist, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona and a lead author of the article.
Primates suffered the worst impacts
The analysis indicated that, for some species, more than 60% of their habitat had been burned at some point in the last two decades. For the majority of the Amazonian plants and animals, though, the impacted areas represent least than 10% of their habitar range. While this sounds like a small percentage, a little bit of habitat loss in the Amazon can already be consequential for species survival. “Any lost habitat is already too much,” says Danilo Neves, professor of ecology at the Institute of Biological Sciences of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG).
He explains that some groups of rare and threatened species have restricted distribution in the Amazon, such as the white-cheeked spider monkey (Ateles marginatus), which is endemic to Brazil and classified as endangered on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), meaning that its probability of extinction is high.
“That species depends a lot on the standing forest,” says Pires. “Monkeys need trees for displacement, food and shelter. They hardly ever move or feed on the ground.”
The white-cheeked spider monkey had 5% of its range affected by fire. “Five percent of the range impacted in 20 years is a lot,” he says. “What will happen in another 20 years, or 50…? We need to consider that, from a biological point of view, that’s very fast loss of habitat.”
Pires stresses that primates are under the highest threat from Amazonian fires. To draw a parallel with another animal species, he uses a bird – the hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin). Classified as threatened on the IUCN list, it ends up being relatively less affected by forest fires since its habitat range can cover virtually the entire Amazon.
As for plants, which, unlike animals, cannot escape the flames, the situation is even more disturbing. The tree species Allantoma kuhlmannii had about 35% of its range impacted by fire.
Unlike the Cerrado, where plants are more resistant to fire and drought, Amazon vegetation is adapted to closed environments and moist soil; when the flames end, the plants can hardly recover, and that part of their habitat may be lost forever.
Since the study focused on measuring the number of species impacted by fire, it did not look for any visible change in animals’ behavior or habitat.
“Given the scale, scope and growing impact of fires across the Amazon, it’s likely that animal populations have already been affected by habitat loss and the opening of more remote areas to hunting,” Enquist believes.
Less enforcement, more fires
By overlaying data on fires with the habitat ranges of flora and fauna, the researchers noticed three fire cycles in the Amazon, which are directly associated with distinct political contexts in Brazil.
In 2001 to 2008, lack of strict environmental enforcement in the country served as fuel for more frequent fires in larger areas. In the following period, 2009 to 2018, enforcement policies managed to curb deforestation. However, in 2016, even though Brazil’s environment protection laws were praised globally, enforcement loosened, and deforestation started to rise again in the Amazon.
In 2019, when current president Jair Bolsonaro took office, the situation worsened. High forest destruction rates continued, driven by federal government rhetoric in favor of mining, against demarcation of indigenous lands, and critical of the work of non-governmental organizations.
“Our results clearly show that forest protection policies had a dramatic effect on the rate of impact of fires and on Amazonian biodiversity,” stresses Enquist.
The international survey points out that, in recent years, there have been fires in more central parts of the Amazon, including areas close to rivers, which is a new trend. “Fire consolidates deforestation. Deforested areas can regenerate, but that would require much more time and investment after the fires,” says Neves.
Risk of biodiversity loss and more extinctions
Scientists worldwide have made clear what needs to be done to restore the Amazon, that being to reduce deforestation, prevent fires and, consequently, protect the habitats of millions of plant and animal species. The formula to do so exists and has been used in the past: stronger commitment to environmentalism, effective law enforcement, forest monitoring, and support for environmental agencies.
Brazilian researchers Danilo Neves and Mathias Pires have no doubt that this is the only way to reverse the current scenario of habitat devastation and loss. “We know what to do. We have already solved the problem before,” says Pires.
The evidence is indisputable. Forest protection policies have a dramatic effect on fires and their impact on Amazonian biodiversity. But, if nothing is done, what can we expect from the future of life in this biome?
“We risk reducing and potentially losing large fractions of biodiversity, which is nature’s capital that gives resilience to climate change, and important ecosystem services that the Amazon provides to humanity,” says Enquist. “If nothing changes, we will see continued habitat degradation for most Amazonian species. As fire and deforestation now move into the heart of the Amazon and regions that are home to species inhabiting smaller geographic areas, the risk of extinction increases dramatically for thousands of forms of life.”
Apart from the global catastrophe that killed off most of the dinosaurs, some experts think almost all the mass extinctions in Earth’s history were followed by a proliferation of microbes in rivers and lakes.
After the Permian extinction event 252 million years ago – the largest mass extinction event in Earth’s history – there appears to have been a burst in bacterial and algal blooms, lasting for hundreds of thousands of years.
According to the geologic record in Australia, the damaging impacts of climate change and climate-driven deforestation during the Permian extinction event most likely caused a toxic soup to sprout in the Sydney Basin, one of the oldest known freshwater ecosystems in the world.
That’s disconcerting, the authors say, as human activity is leading to a similar mass extinction event today.
“We’re seeing more and more toxic algae blooms in lakes and in shallow marine environments that’s related to increases in temperature and changes in plant communities which are leading to increases in nutrient contributions to freshwater environments,” says geologist Tracy Frank from the University of Connecticut
“So, a lot of parallels to today. The volcanism was a source of CO2 in the past, but we know that the rate of CO2 input that was seen back then was similar to the rate of CO2 increases we’re seeing today because of anthropogenic effects.”
Algae and bacteria are normal parts of a healthy freshwater environment, but sometimes they can grow out of control and deplete the water of oxygen, creating ‘dead zones’.
This tends to happen with global warming, deforestation, and the rush of soil nutrients into waterways, which can feed microbes. All three of these factors are in play today, which is why we are probably seeing increases in toxic blooms already.
Considering what’s happened in the past, that’s a disturbing sign.
According to soil, fossil, and geochemical data from the Sydney Basin, researchers think the spread of microbes in the wake of the Permian extinction “was both a symptom of continental ecosystem collapse, and a cause of its delayed recovery.”
Volcanic eruptions in the Permian first triggered an accelerated and sustained rise in greenhouse gas emissions. This caused higher global temperatures and sudden deforestation due to wildfires or drought.
Once the trees were gone, it wasn’t long before the structure of the soil began to erode, and its nutrients slipped into freshwater ecosystems.
In turn, these persistent dead zones prevented the reestablishment of important carbon sinks, like peatlands, and slowed down climate and ecosystem recovery.
Other deep-time records around the world have also found microbial blooms are common after warming-driven extinction events. The exception seems to be the very large asteroid event that caused the mass extinction of dinosaurs 66 million years ago.
This major episode caused vast amounts of dust and sulfate aerosols to rise into the atmosphere, but compared to volcanic activity, the meteorite only caused a modest increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature, not a sustained one. As such, freshwater microbes only seemed to undergo a short-lived burst after the extinction event.
Unfortunately, that’s very different from what occurred during the Permian extinction and what is happening today.
For instance, the researchers note that the “optimal temperature growth range” of these harmful algae in freshwater environments is 20-32 °C (68-89.6 °F). That range matches the estimated continental summer surface air temperatures for the region during the early Triassic. That range is what’s projected for mid-latitude continental summer surface air temperatures in 2100.
Scientists are noticing other similarities, including an increase in forest fires and the subsequent destabilization of soils.
“The other big parallel is that the increase in temperature at the end of the Permian coincided with massive increases in forest fires,” says geologist Chris Fielding, also from the University of Connecticut.
“One of the things that destroyed whole ecosystems was fire, and we’re seeing that right now in places like California. One wonders what the longer-term consequences of events like that as they are becoming more and more widespread.”
The good news is that this time many of the changes are in our control. The bad news is that whatever happens next is our own fault.
“The end-Permian mass extinction event took four million years to recover from,” Fielding says. “That’s sobering.”
Crews set a backfire in an effort to gain control of the massive Caldor fire near the Tahoe basin in California on Aug. 26.Ty O’Neil/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images
Through fires and hurricanes, through lethal heat waves and flash floods, the world seems to be ending — or at least, that’s what it feels like.
All around us, we’re seeing the effects of climate change. Wildfires are raging through the West. Much of southeast Louisiana was flattened by Hurricane Ida, and parts of New York and New Jersey are digging out from disastrous flooding.
And if it seems like natural disasters are happening more and more often, that’s because they are: Climate change has helped drive a fivefold increase in the number of weather-related disasters in the last 50 years. Climate change means disasters are happening simultaneously, too.
These disasters are getting more severe, too. Weather records are being broken thanks to climate change turning previously impossible occurrences into startling realities.
As a result, many people are dealing with what’s commonly referred to as “eco grief,” a type of mental exhaustion that stems from accepting the harsh realities of climate change and feeling overwhelmed or hopeless. Added to that is “disaster fatigue,” another type of emotional tiredness that comes from dealing with an abundance of bad news and steadily occurring crises — like near-constant headlines of devastating disasters.
Jeffrey Garcia, an engineer living in Glen Burnie, Md., has grown up with an awareness of ecological problems thanks to a childhood spent in Albuquerque, N.M., where drought is a persistent specter, he said. Today, he, like many others, is still troubled by what he sees as “cascading issues” and while he understands the nuance — the world isn’t going to immediately burn down — there’s still a persistent sense of dread, he explained to NPR. One that he tries to combat with knowledge and action.Article continues after sponsor messagehttps://1bca8489bd1f2e14d2c05443ad49df11.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
“The voice of anxiety feeds on exaggeration and hyperbole. And while it is easy to feel that flash of fear … there’s over 7 billion people on this planet that all have a vested interest in [the worst] not happening,” he said.
Still,the instability of that future has led Garcia and his wife to reconsider whether to have children.
It’s a sentiment that he’s not alone in; Katie Oran, a 25-year-old wildfire planner working in Sacramento, Calif., feels much the same way.
“I think almost every single one of my friends, none of us want to have children,” Oran said. “Just because thinking about bringing children into an uncertain future doesn’t necessarily seem fair. We talk a lot about where we should move, where is safe … I don’t really know if anywhere is safe [though].”
On Sept. 3, a motorist drives past houses damaged by Hurricane Ida in Grand Isle, La. Ida made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, causing flooding, wind damage and power outages along the Gulf Coast.Sean Rayford/Getty Images
The string of disasters is making us anxious
If you’re worried about the environment, you aren’t alone. A poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association last year showed that nearly 70% of adults in the country are at least somewhat anxious about what climate change will do to the planet, and slightly more than half are worried about what toll that will take on their mental health.
“We are burned out and our resilience is really down,” Lise Van Susteren, a psychiatrist, author and environmental activist, told NPR. “It’s making us raw to all of these new challenges that we face. They’re coming too fast, too furious, and too many.”
An unfortunate side effect of being informed are the emotions, like helplessness, that come alongside that knowledge. Some, like members of a climate change support group in Salt Lake City, deal with those feelings by banding together. But it’s harder for people like Oran, whose jobs give them a front-row seat to the worst of what’s happening to the planet.
It’s scary, Oran said, not knowing exactly what will come next.
“There’s a lot of unknowns about how already-occurring natural disasters will get worse, whether it’s flooding or hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and so I think that with the unknowns and uncertainty, it’s difficult to plan for the future,”she said. “And I think that we can work as hard as we can to retrofit homes and to build a ton of combustible materials and to create defensible space around homes. But fire will come.”
Taking action may be the answer — not just for the planet but for your mind
Worsening mental health amid ongoing disasters is something that’s on the radar for mental health providers, too, Van Susteren says.
“We know that if we don’t tend to what people are feeling, that they will turn inward on this and they will find themselves increasingly alone and under siege themselves internally,” she said. “I’ve said as bad as the storms are outside, the storms inside are even worse.”
The effects of climate change that we’re seeing are already mentally draining (and for many who live in affected areas, directly damaging), but unfortunately, experiencing these natural disasters amid an ongoing global pandemic is exacerbating the situation. As Van Susteren explained, “The pandemic has made us more raw.”
As with any mental health problem, seeking professional support is encouraged whenever possible. Thankfully, there are therapists who specialize in climate anxiety, who can be found on directories — like this one — listing “climate-aware” mental health professionals.
Another solution? Action, however small, is a good way to start. Van Susteren suggests focusing on the three P’s: personal, professional and political. Reflecting on what you can do personally to combat climate change can mean examining your own carbon footprint and ways to lessen it. Professionally, you can connect with those you work with to raise awareness and make changes at your workplace. And finally, there’s always work to be done politically.
“That means that we’re all now charged with being enlightened citizens who can change leadership,” Susteren explained. “Someone wise once said when the people lead, the leaders will follow. We need to make sure that elected officials who understand what we’re up against are writing policy that reflects it.”
CNN)Firefighters in California made significant progress against the Caldor Fire over the weekend, allowing for some evacuation orders in the Lake Tahoe region to be downgraded. But as residents there began to breathe a sigh of relief, three new fires ignited in the state Sunday, according to Cal Fire.Evacuation orders for the city of South Lake Tahoe were downgraded to evacuation warnings, nearly a week after thousands in the resort town clogged roadways when officials told them get out because flames were racing into the area.
The areas of Fallen Leaf Lake, Christmas Valley, Meyers and North Upper Truckee remain under an evacuation order.
Across the state border in Nevada, mandatory evacuations in Douglas County were downgraded to precautionary evacuations Saturday, according to an announcement on the county’s website, opening the door for some residents there to return home.
As of Monday morning, the Caldor Fire had consumed 216,358 acres near the California-Nevada border. The flames are 44% contained about three weeks after it started on August 14, Cal Fire said.Enter your email to sign up for CNN’s “Meanwhile in China” Newsletter.close dialog
High temperatures ahead
Saturday night, fire behavior in the Caldor Fire’s East Zone was “minimal to moderate,” Cal Fire said in an update Sunday evening.”There is still much work to be done tying in dozer lines and holding along the south and southeast flank of the fire above Caples Lake. However so far, firefighters are making good progress,” the report said.As firefighters measure their progress, they are also keeping an eye on the forecast as another heat wave is shaping up for this week.
Is this *finally* the moment we wake up to the climate crisis?Nearly 25 million in California, Nevada, and Arizona will experience temperatures up to 20 degrees above average, meaning the region could see 105 to 115 degrees, CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said. The majority of the heat will impact the desert Southwest.At the same time, a red flag warning is in effect for portions of central Oregon and central northern California on Tuesday, meaning conditions will be optimal for fire to spread, Guy said.In the meantime, fire officials urged those returning to their homes to do so safely and keep an eye on updates.”Repopulation consists of complex coordination between, fire, law enforcement, public works, and utilities to ensure the safety of residents and fire responders alike,” Cal Fire said.The Caldor Fire has destroyed more than 900 structures since it began, including homes, business and other buildings, Cal Fire said. More than 27,000 structures are threatened.
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestCalifornia Gov. Gavin Newsom, left, and Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak tour an area destroyed by the Tamarack Fire in Gardnerville, Nevada, on July 28.Hide Caption35 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighter Brentt Call walks through a burned-over area of the Bootleg Fire near Klamath Falls, Oregon, on July 27.Hide Caption36 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestCal Fire Capts. Tristan Gale, left, and Derek Leong monitor a firing operation in California’s Lassen National Forest on July 26. Crews had set a ground fire to stop the Dixie Fire from spreading.Hide Caption37 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters try to reach a fire site in Quincy, California, on July 25.Hide Caption38 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestVolunteers sort clothing at a donation shelter for those affected by the Bootleg Fire in Bly, Oregon.Hide Caption39 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestScott Griffin surveys his property, which was destroyed by the Bootleg Fire in Sycan Estates, Oregon.Hide Caption40 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFlames consume a home as the Dixie Fire tears through the Indian Falls community of Plumas County, California, on July 24.Hide Caption41 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestPeople stand behind the fire line as flames from the Steptoe Canyon Fire spread through dry grass in Colton, Washington, on July 22.Hide Caption42 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestPlumes of smoke from the Dixie Fire rise above California’s Plumas National Forest, near the Pacific Gas and Electric Rock Creek Power House, on July 21.Hide Caption43 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters walk near a wildfire in Topanga, California, on July 19.Hide Caption44 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA firefighter does mop-up work in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, which has been struggling with the Bootleg Fire in Oregon.Hide Caption45 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA car is charred by the Bootleg Fire along a mountain road near Bly, Oregon.Hide Caption46 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestNicolas Bey, 11, hugs his father, Sayyid, near a donated trailer they are using after their home was burned in the Bootleg Fire near Beatty, Oregon.Hide Caption47 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters extinguish hot spots in an area affected by the Bootleg Fire near Bly, Oregon.Hide Caption48 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA bear cub clings to a tree after being spotted by a safety officer at the Bootleg Fire in Oregon.Hide Caption49 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters work to protect Markleeville, California, from the Tamarack Fire on July 17. The Tamarack Fire was started by a lightning strike.Hide Caption50 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestThe Tamarack Fire burns in Markleeville, near the California-Nevada border, on July 17.Hide Caption51 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA member of the Northwest Incident Management Team 12 holds a map of the Chuweah Creek Fire as wildfires devastated Nespelem, Washington, on July 16.Hide Caption52 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA cloud from the Bootleg Fire drifts into the air near Bly, Oregon, on July 16.Hide Caption53 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters spray water from the Union Pacific Railroad’s fire train while battling the Dixie Fire in California’s Plumas National Forest on July 16.Hide Caption54 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestHorses climb a hillside that was burned by the Chuweah Creek Fire in eastern Washington.Hide Caption55 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFire from the Bootleg Fire illuminates smoke near Bly, Oregon, on the night of July 16.Hide Caption56 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA firefighter battles the Bootleg Fire in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, along the Oregon and California border, on July 15.Hide Caption57 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA firefighting aircraft drops flame retardant on the Bootleg Fire in Bly, Oregon, on July 15.Hide Caption58 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters dig away at hot spots underneath stumps and brush after flames from the Snake River Complex Fire swept through the area south of Lewiston, Idaho, on July 15.Hide Caption59 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestBurned cars sit outside a home that was destroyed by the Chuweah Creek Fire in Nespelem, Washington.Hide Caption60 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestEvacuee Dee McCarley hugs her cat Bunny at a Red Cross center in Klamath Falls, Oregon, on July 14.Hide Caption61 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestAn airplane drops fire retardant on the Chuweah Creek Fire in Washington on July 14.Hide Caption62 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestOperations Section Chief Bert Thayer examines a map of the Bootleg Fire in Chiloquin, Oregon, on July 13.Hide Caption63 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFire consumes a home as the Sugar Fire, part of the Beckwourth Complex Fire, tears through Doyle, California, on July 10. It’s the second time in less than a year that the small town has been ravaged by a wildfire.Hide Caption64 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestMen hug a member of the Red Cross at a Bootleg Fire evacuation center in Klamath Falls, Oregon.Hide Caption65 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestEmbers blow across a field as the Sugar Fire burns in Doyle, California, on July 9.Hide Caption66 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters monitor the Sugar Fire in Doyle, California, on July 9.Hide Caption67 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestIn this long-exposure photograph, taken early on July 2, flames surround a drought-stricken Shasta Lake during the Salt Fire in Lakehead, California.Hide Caption68 of 68
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA helicopter flies over Wrights Lake while battling the Caldor Fire in California’s Eldorado National Forest on Wednesday, September 1.
See picturesque Lake Tahoe obscured by smoke from wildfire 02:21
(CNN)The raging Caldor Fire in Northern California prompted evacuation orders and warnings in the Lake Tahoe Basin Sunday night after fire conditions resulted in rapid spread, causing at least one hospital to transfer all of its patients out amid the flames.All patients were being evacuated from Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe.”Patients will be transferred to regional partner facilities & patients’ families will be notified,” the hospital said in a tweet Sunday night. “Barton’s Emergency Department remains open for emergent health needs only.”
Five people have been injured in the fire that has destroyed more than 650 structures and damaged nearly 40 more since it began August 14, Cal Fire said.
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters try to reach a fire site in Quincy, California, on July 25.Hide Caption31 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestVolunteers sort clothing at a donation shelter for those affected by the Bootleg Fire in Bly, Oregon.Hide Caption32 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestScott Griffin surveys his property, which was destroyed by the Bootleg Fire in Sycan Estates, Oregon.Hide Caption33 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFlames consume a home as the Dixie Fire tears through the Indian Falls community of Plumas County, California, on July 24.Hide Caption34 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestPeople stand behind the fire line as flames from the Steptoe Canyon Fire spread through dry grass in Colton, Washington, on July 22.Hide Caption35 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestPlumes of smoke from the Dixie Fire rise above California’s Plumas National Forest, near the Pacific Gas and Electric Rock Creek Power House, on July 21.Hide Caption36 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters walk near a wildfire in Topanga, California, on July 19.Hide Caption37 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA firefighter does mop-up work in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, which has been struggling with the Bootleg Fire in Oregon.Hide Caption38 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA car is charred by the Bootleg Fire along a mountain road near Bly, Oregon.Hide Caption39 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestNicolas Bey, 11, hugs his father, Sayyid, near a donated trailer they are using after their home was burned in the Bootleg Fire near Beatty, Oregon.Hide Caption40 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters extinguish hot spots in an area affected by the Bootleg Fire near Bly, Oregon.Hide Caption41 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA bear cub clings to a tree after being spotted by a safety officer at the Bootleg Fire in Oregon.Hide Caption42 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters work to protect Markleeville, California, from the Tamarack Fire on July 17. The Tamarack Fire was started by a lightning strike.Hide Caption43 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestThe Tamarack Fire burns in Markleeville, near the California-Nevada border, on July 17.Hide Caption44 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA member of the Northwest Incident Management Team 12 holds a map of the Chuweah Creek Fire as wildfires devastated Nespelem, Washington, on July 16.Hide Caption45 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA cloud from the Bootleg Fire drifts into the air near Bly, Oregon, on July 16.Hide Caption46 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters spray water from the Union Pacific Railroad’s fire train while battling the Dixie Fire in California’s Plumas National Forest on July 16.Hide Caption47 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestHorses climb a hillside that was burned by the Chuweah Creek Fire in eastern Washington.Hide Caption48 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFire from the Bootleg Fire illuminates smoke near Bly, Oregon, on the night of July 16.Hide Caption49 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA firefighter battles the Bootleg Fire in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, along the Oregon and California border, on July 15.Hide Caption50 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA firefighting aircraft drops flame retardant on the Bootleg Fire in Bly, Oregon, on July 15.Hide Caption51 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters dig away at hot spots underneath stumps and brush after flames from the Snake River Complex Fire swept through the area south of Lewiston, Idaho, on July 15.Hide Caption52 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestBurned cars sit outside a home that was destroyed by the Chuweah Creek Fire in Nespelem, Washington.Hide Caption53 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestEvacuee Dee McCarley hugs her cat Bunny at a Red Cross center in Klamath Falls, Oregon, on July 14.Hide Caption54 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestAn airplane drops fire retardant on the Chuweah Creek Fire in Washington on July 14.Hide Caption55 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestOperations Section Chief Bert Thayer examines a map of the Bootleg Fire in Chiloquin, Oregon, on July 13.Hide Caption56 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFire consumes a home as the Sugar Fire, part of the Beckwourth Complex Fire, tears through Doyle, California, on July 10. It’s the second time in less than a year that the small town has been ravaged by a wildfire.Hide Caption57 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestMen hug a member of the Red Cross at a Bootleg Fire evacuation center in Klamath Falls, Oregon.Hide Caption58 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestEmbers blow across a field as the Sugar Fire burns in Doyle, California, on July 9.Hide Caption59 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters monitor the Sugar Fire in Doyle, California, on July 9.Hide Caption60 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestIn this long-exposure photograph, taken early on July 2, flames surround a drought-stricken Shasta Lake during the Salt Fire in Lakehead, California.Hide Caption61 of 61
Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters with the Eldorado National Forest address the Caldor Fire in Strawberry, California, on Friday, August 27. The raging fire has prompted evacuation orders and warnings in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
The warning, which signifies that there is “a potential threat to life and/or property” was expanded for additional parts of the basin, Cal Fire said in an alert Sunday.Enter your email to sign up for CNN’s “Meanwhile in China” Newsletter.close dialog
The West’s historic drought in 3 mapsInciweb’s incident report on the Caldor Fire said the increase in spread was due largely to wind gusts between 25-35 mph and relative humidity between 10-15%.Critical fire weather conditions are expected in the coming days, according to a tweet from the National Weather Service in Sacramento, with gusts of 20 to 35 mph possible in the afternoons and evenings.The agency said in a tweet Sunday that smoke from the wildfires has created poor air quality across the region, with some locations in the hazardous category.A red flag warning will be in place from Monday night until Tuesday as humidity values will run as low as 5-10%, according to CNN Meteorologist Michael Guy.With an extreme drought and several active wildfires burning during the middle of the state’s fire season, firefighters have had to pace themselves and outside resources have been called in.
Soldiers deployed to help with fire operations
The Caldor Fire grew to 177,260 acres and is 14% contained, Cal Fire said Monday, as the fire continued to “actively burn” overnight due to low humidity as it threatened South Lake Tahoe. Officials Sunday evening listed the fire at 168,387 acres and 13% contained.”Low humidity remained poor overnight and allowed the fire to continue to actively burn,” according to an incident update. “Fire weakened trees continue to present a risk for crews.”It is one of several fires burning in California where more than 1.6 million acres have been scorched this year alone, the Cal Fire website shows.Not only has it prompted evacuations for residents but it has also closed at least two local resorts.
Northern California wildfires traveled up to 8 miles in a single day, Cal Fire saysKirkwood Mountain Resort said in a message Sunday that it is under a mandatory evacuation.And the Heavenly Ski Resort said on Twitter earlier this month, “Due to ongoing risk of wildfire to the Tahoe Region, Heavenly is now closed for summer.”Wildfires in the state have gotten so intense that approximately 200 Army Soldiers will be deployed at the request of the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) to assist with firefighting operations starting Monday, a statement from US Army North Public Affairs said.Units from Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Washington state will be trained to assist with the response to the Dixie Fire which is burning on National Parks land, the release said.
The largest active wildfire in the state, the Dixie Fire, has grown to more than 765,635 acres since igniting in mid-July, according to Cal Fire.”Upon completion of training at JBLM, the Soldiers will deploy to Northern California to conduct additional fireline training prior to serving as hand crews assisting with wildfire suppression on the Dixie Fire,” the Army statement said.
Tahoe Keys: All residences with the Tahoe Keys community and all residents accessed from the streets connected to Tahoe Keys Boulevard, staying east of Third Street.
Tahoe Island: East of Highway 50/Highway 89 at the at the Lake Tahoe Blvd and Highway 89 Highway 50 intersection. This includes the area of Barton Hospital and the area of Winnemucca to the “Y.” Also north of Highway 50 west of Tahoe Keys Boulevard following along the north side of Highway 89 through the end of town prior to Pope Beach.
Al Tahoe: All residences off of Lakeview, which is west of Highway 50, north of Blue Lakes Road and east of Tahoe Keys Neighborhood.
Sierra Tract: All residences on both sides of Highway 50 for the streets connected to O’Malley, Lodi, Silver Dollar and Rubicon Trail.
Bijou: The residences between Al Tahoe on the east side of Johnson Boulevard to include the streets of Treehaven and Fremont and extending to the east in to all residences west of Ski Run and east of Pioneer Trail.
Tahoma: The section from Emerald Bay north to the Placer County line in Tahoma, extending west to the border of Desolation Wilderness.
Fallen Leaf: The area from Sawmill Road at Lake Tahoe Boulevard extending north to Pope Beach. Along the water’s edge to Eagle Point. From Eagle Point west, to Desolation Wilderness, across Emerald Bay.
Pioneer: This is the area north of Elks Club along Highway 50 and the west side of Pioneer Trail, also including the streets of Hekpa, excluding the residences west of the airport. This segment includes all residences accessed from Jicarilla, Washoan and Glen Eagles. This also includes the Golden Bear neighborhood, and the neighborhoods of Cold Creek Trail, High Meadows and Marshall Trail.
Gardner Mountain: Northwest of the South Lake Tahoe Airport and west of the Highway 50/Lake Tahoe Blvd and Highway 89 intersection to include the South Lake Tahoe High School, Tahoe Verde and the streets accessed from 5th through 15th street south of Highway 89.
Trimmer: The area east of Pioneer Trail to the Alpine County line stopping south of Heavenly Ski Resort, excluding all residences off of Pioneer Trail.
The expanded evacuation orders come as a red flag warning is set to go into effect at 11 a.m. Monday for the Northern Sierra and Southern Cascades.
Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe was evacuated Sunday.
The Caldor Fire, which ignited Aug. 14 near Little Mountain between Omo Ranch and Grizzly Flats, has burned at least 177,260 acres, or 276 square miles, and containment has dropped to 14%, as of Monday morning, Cal Fire said. On Sunday, there was 19% containment reported.
As of Monday morning, Cal Fire said 472 homes and 11 commercial properties had been confirmed destroyed. The fire also damaged fiber lines linked to a cell tower.
These wave of new evacuation orders comes as a large portion of Highway 88 is now shut down. The closure is from Omo Ranch Road to the Highway 88/89 closure. Caltrans is urging motorists to use an alternate route. With the closure of Highway 88, people in Tahoe will only have Interstate 80 as an option to leave the area to the west as Highway 50 remains closed.
Battling the blaze
The Caldor Fire had “rapid-fire spread” on Sunday, Cal Fire said.
“Fuel conditions remain critical and we still see active crown runs and group torching in the northeastern divisions of the fire,” the report goes on to say.
Fire behavior is resulting in ember casts “traveling up to half a mile,” Cal Fire said.
Three first responders and two other people have been injured in the fire.
As the wildfire raged, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Aug. 17 declared a state of emergency in El Dorado County. By declaring a state of emergency, the state can pull from federal funds to help battle the blaze.
On Saturday, firefighters worked to keep the flames away from structures in Strawberry by running backfire operations and laying down hose line.
Smith said that Strawberry was chosen as an optimal staging area for firefighters to position themselves should the Caldor Fire begin threatening more homes farther east.Play Video
Jumping Highway 50
The Caldor Fire jumped Highway 50 near Kyburz on Saturday, Aug. 21, a day after a 40-mile stretch of the highway between was closed.
The impact of the Caldor Fire could be felt for weeks on Highway 50. The fire has compromised the highway’s safety with unstable trees lining the roadway’s edge. Even after the flames are out, work to assess and remove trees that pose a threat to drivers on that heavily traveled roadway will take time.
“This fire has just simply outpaced us,” said Jeff Marsolais, a forest supervisor for Eldorado National Forest. “We emptied the cupboards of resources, and the local fire chiefs of Amador and El Dorado counties sent every resource they could, and no matter how many folks we try to get on it, it just continued to outpace us.”
U.S. Forest Service officials said that nine national forests will be temporarily closed through Sept. 6 because of extreme fire conditions.
Officials previously announced a complete shutdown of the Eldorado National Forest through Sept. 30 because of the fire, and the Rubicon Trail was closed as well.
| VIDEO BELOW | LiveCopter 3 over the Caldor Fire on Aug. 25, 2021Play Video
The community of Grizzly Flats in El Dorado County, a once wooded area where roughly 1,200 people called home, is hardly recognizable now. The Caldor Fire burned through many of its neighborhoods and businesses, leaving mostly debris.
Deputies with the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to the Grizzly Flats and Pollock Pines areas to patrol after receiving reports of looting.
The World Weather Attribution initiative, an international group of climate scientists behind the report, said July’s historic rainfall was 1.2 to 9 times more likely to happen due to global warming.
The researchers used peer-reviewed scientific methods to examine how human-induced climate change affected rainfall events in Europe this summer.
Climate change increased the rainfall intensity
People check for victims in flooded cars on a road in Erftstadt, Germany, on July 17 following heavy rainfall that broke the banks of the Erft river, causing massive damage.Michael Probst/AP
Using historical records going back to the late 19th century and computer simulations, the researchers studied how temperatures affected rainfall in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands.
They found climate change increased the amount of rain that can fall in one day in the region by 3 – 19%, when compared to a climate 1.2 degrees Celsius cooler (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) than it is now. The increase is similar for a rainstorm that happens across two days.Article continues after sponsor message
Play VideoDuration 1:11See video as flames reach Highway 50 east of Kyburz in Caldor FireThe Caldor Fire burns on both sides of Highway 50 about 10 miles east of Kyburz on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, as the fire pushes east prompting evacuation orders all the way to Echo Summit. BY SARA NEVIS
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Authorities on Thursday expanded evacuations for the Caldor Fire to include the Twin Bridges and Echo Summit areas as the blaze grows closer to the Lake Tahoe Basin.
El Dorado County sheriff’s officials issued new mandatory evacuation orders from Twin Bridges through Echo Summit, extending north of Highway 50 to Flagpole Peak and south of the highway to the Amador-Alpine county line.
The nearly 50-mile Highway 50 closure, which begins at Sly Park Road in Pollock Pines on the west end, has also been extended on the east end.TOP ARTICLES
A small stretch of the highway had previously been open only to residents between Twin Bridges and Meyers, but is now fully closed through Meyers at the Highway 89 junction, as those locals must evacuate. Those evacuating using Highway 50 should head east, emergency officials said in an update.
Evacuation warnings, voluntary at this time, have also been issued for Christmas Valley — a cluster of homes and cabins west of Highway 89 and east of Highway 50 at Echo Summit — and parts of Alpine County, including west of Highway 88 up to Kirkwood.
The Caldor Fire ignited Aug. 14, exploding in size and mostly destroying the town of Grizzly Flats in its first few days. The fire prompted urgent evacuations up through the Pollock Pines, Sly Park and Kyburz area. The fire has spread more slowly but very steadily this week toward the northeast, toward Lake Tahoe.
Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service reported the fire Friday morning at 143,951 acres (225 square miles), growing roughly 7,000 acres since Thursday. Officials said containment held at 12% but the fire remained active overnight due to poor humidity recovery.
The city of South Lake Tahoe issued a proclamation of local emergency Thursday due to the Caldor Fire, though there have not yet been formal evacuation orders or warnings within city limits. City officials also gave a warning about tourism at this time.
“Tourists who still plan to come to the Tahoe Basin need to understand that the air quality levels are extremely unhealthy, many of the beaches around the lake are closed, and some businesses have temporarily closed,” the city wrote in a news release.
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Officials at the Lake Valley Fire Protection District, headquartered in South Lake Tahoe, have been on high alert this week.
“To say Lake Valley Fire is concerned is an understatement,” said Brad Zlendick, chief of the fire protection district, during a community meeting Tuesday. “We’re concerned about it affecting our cabins, our homes up on top of Echo Summit.”
The fire is also burning near ski resorts including Sierra-At-Tahoe and Kirkwood.
CALDOR FIRE MAP
Red circles on this live-updating map are actively burning areas, as detected by satellite. Orange circles have burned in the past 12 to 24 hours, and yellow circles have burned within the past 48 hours. Yellow areas represent the fire perimeter. https://maps.nwcg.gov/sa/#/%3F/%3F/38.6617/-120.5628/11Source: National Interagency Fire Center
Tori B. PowellThu, August 26, 2021, 4:42 AM·2 min read
Firefighters tackling the Caldor Fire now have priority over available resources as the blaze has become “the number one fire in the country right now in terms of priorities for values at risk,” according to El Dorado National Forest supervisor Jeff Marsolais. Burning only 11 miles southwest of the Lake Tahoe area, local officials said they worry about the fire’s spread.
“This fire has just simply outpaced us,” Marsolais said Tuesday night at a community briefing. “We emptied the cupboards of resources, and the local fire chiefs of Amador and El Dorado counties sent every resource they could, and no matter how many folks we tried to get on it, it just continued to outpace us.”
As of Wednesday morning, the Caldor Fire has burned 126,182 acres and is only 11% contained, Cal Fire reports. The massive blaze has already damaged 461 residences, 34 structures, 11 commercial properties and 165 minor structures, with more than 17,000 structures still in its possible path. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Fire officials expect to fully contain it by August 31.
“[This is] still a very large fire that we’re still going to have a lot of work to do to get around,” Cal Fire Amador-El Dorado unit chief Mike Blankenheim said.
The fire’s behavior in the area has fluctuated since it began on August 14, Marsolais said. A change in wind pattern Tuesday evening decreased fire activity to allow firefighter teams to strengthen and improve certain control lines, Cal Fire said. However, the agency reported spot fires along the southwest and the northeastern areas of the wildfire and around its perimeter.
Officials said stopping the eastern spread of the fire is a “huge priority.”
“We’re putting every available resource we have on that,” Blankenheim said.
On Monday, Chief Thom Porter said the Caldor Fire was “knocking on the door to the Lake Tahoe basin.”
Smoke from the wildfire has caused air quality in some areas of the basin to be designated as hazardous — the highest level of concern on the air quality index scale. Officials have advised residents in polluted areas to remain inside and to stay informed on air quality and the wildfire’s developments.
And while the current evacuation orders issued to thousands of residents do not include Lake Tahoe residents, officials said they are watching the area and will issue warnings in the basin should evacuations be ordered between Twin Bridges and Echo Summit.
“We will be involved in this until the end,” Lake Valley Fire Chief Brad Zlendick said. “This will end too. We’ll get through this.”