Posts Tagged ‘fires’

“Containment Zero” — California Fires Remain Out of Control

October 11, 2017
By Paige St. John, Phil Willon, Louis Sahagun, Sonali Kohli , Nina Agrawal
The Los Angeles Times
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Image result for california fires, October 2017, photos

Toll from Northern California firestorms sharply rise: 2,000 structures destroyed, at least 17 dead

The toll from Northern California’s ranging wildfires continued to grow Tuesday evening as officials said the fires destroyed up to 2,000 structures and killed at least 17 people.

The devastating losses establish firestorms among the most destructive in California history. The estimated losses of homes, businesses and other buildings jumped from 1,500 to 2,000, and officials fear the death toll will also continue to rise.

Image result for california fires, October 2017, photos

Sonoma County alone has received about 200 reports of missing people since Sunday night, and sheriff’s officials have located 45 of those people, said county spokeswoman Maggie Fleming.

The majority of the fatalities are from Sonoma County, where huge swaths of the city of Santa Rosa were leveled by the Tubbs fire. Eleven people have died in Sonoma County as of 7 p.m. Tuesday, officials said. Two people have died in Napa County, three in Mendocino County and one in Yuba County, Cal Fire officials said.

As firefighters continued to battle one of the worst firestorms in California history, federal officials vowed to help.

Vice President Mike Pence said in a visit to California’s emergency management headquarters that President Trump has approved a “major disaster declaration” for California. When he spoke, 13 people had been confirmed dead.

“Let me first say our hearts and the hearts of every American go out to the families of the 13 who’ve lost their lives. It’s heartbreaking to think that many of the fallen represent our most vulnerable; in some cases senior citizens who simply were not able to escape the flames that overcame their homes,” he said. “They are in our prayers.”

As of 7 a.m. Tuesday, the two biggest blazes — the Tubbs fire and the Atlas Peak fire in Napa County — had burned 27,000 and 25,000 acres, respectively, said Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant. Both fires were uncontained, he said. Firefighters are hoping that winds will lessen enough Tuesday to allow crews to get a handle on the fires.

“Though our containment numbers haven’t gone up just yet, we’ve at least been able to hold these fires and keep them at their current acreage,” Berlant said. The Tubbs fire grew about 2,000 acres since Monday night.

Some of the smaller fires had some containment as of Monday night, he said: The 2,500-acre Sulphur fire in Lake County was 10% contained, and the 2,000-acre 37 fire in Sonoma County was 15% contained.

About 20,000 people evacuated their homes Sunday night and Monday, and there were additional evacuations in the Tubbs fire area and in Yuba County overnight, Berlant said.

Residents of some areas were allowed to return Tuesday night, including in the Forestville area.

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Fires in east Napa create an orange glow over the horizon. View from Foster Road in South Napa. Credit Teresa Zimny

Red flag warnings in effect throughout much of Northern California had expired as of Tuesday morning, Berlant said. Winds of up to 50 mph Sunday night helped spread the flames.

“Overnight, the wind that had fanned these fires had really decreased, and that gave us an opportunity to really take a stand against these fires,” Berlant said early Tuesday. “We are again today hoping to see very little wind compared to Sunday.”

But the cool and quiet of night did not stymie the progress of the Atlas fire, which stretched across the hills east of Napa and sparked a chain of more fires to the west.

“They continue to move. They were moving all night,” burning more structures in their wake, Cal Fire incident commander Kevin Lawson said Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday, the Atlas fire was moving down the east side of a ridge into Solano County and threatening residents of Green Valley. The Partrick fire southwest of Napa was pushing toward heavily populated areas, and emergency planners warned that the fire could grow.

A few miles north, the community of Glen Ellen continued to be threatened by the Nuns fire burning in the Mayacamas Mountains.

Fire behavior specialist Jon Heggie told crews heading out at dawn Tuesday to be prepared for the fires to turn north and east into dry brush “with 80% to 90% probability of ignition.”

As of late Tuesday, the 16 fires in Northern California had destroyed up to 2,000 homes, businesses and other structures, said Cal Fire spokesman Jonathan Cox.

Several thousand firefighters from across the state are battling the blazes, and some strike teams from Southern California have been sent north, Berlant said. The California National Guard has deployed six additional helicopters to aid in firefighting efforts.

And evacuees will not be able to return to their homes for some time, he said.

“Many of these fires, it’s going to take several more days, even potentially more weeks, before we have full containment,” Berlant said.

Still, some tried to get back to their houses Tuesday.

It took Brady Harvell almost two hours to find what he was looking for in the rubble of his parents’ home on the northwest corner of Santa Rosa.

Using a small spade to move ashes aside, Harvell had been searching for the Army dog tags he gave his father in 2013 when he returned from deployment in Iraq. At 12:40 p.m. he reached down and pulled it out of a gray pile. Harvell held it up and shouted: “Got it! Oh, my God! Got it!”

Marveling over the discolored and misshapen treasure in the palm of his hand, he said: “I grew up here, all my memories are from this very spot. It’s where I played and learned right from wrong. But the fire destroyed every photograph my mother and father had of me. It took all our memories, except this one.”

Harvell reached into his pocket and pulled out a cellphone and dialed.

“Love you, Brady,” his father said at the other end of the line.

“Love you, Dad,” Harvell replied.

Lance Thomspon, 75, returned to his Hidden Valley neighborhood Tuesday to find streets filled with broken utility poles and huge tangles of smoldering power lines. Some streets were blocked by yellow police tape.

Once home to stately two-story brick homes fronting winding, narrow lanes gated by 100-foot pine trees, most of the neighborhood was reduced to ashes, twisted metal and broken water mains splashing onto heaps of blackened beams. The only things left standing were the skeletal trunks and limbs of charred pine trees and dozens of lonesome chimneys.

Thompson was one of the lucky ones. He didn’t lose his home.

Leaping from ridge top to ridge top in grass and oak woodlands, flames raced across the heart of the California wine country, claiming houses, hotels, at least one winery and a dairy.

In Santa Rosa, the Tubbs fire leveled an entire neighborhood, burned a Hilton hotel, turned big-box stores into smoking ruins and prompted the evacuation of two hospitals — Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital and Kaiser’s Santa Rosa Medical Center.

At the Fountaingrove Inn, the fire left behind only the steel frame, now crooked in many places, and parts of the stone walls. A mess of tangled rebar, broken piping and blackened tree limbs lay strewn above piles of rubble. Water pipes hung askew and broken glass littered the hedges.

Amazingly, at the far side of the inn, a dry fountain, two wooden tables and about a dozen wooden chairs sat intact.

Farther up the hill at the sprawling Hilton site, small fires still smoldered and occasional pieces of debris rained down. On the far end of the property the pool and sitting area around it were untouched.

Though the conditions that fed the blazes — high winds from the interior, dried-up vegetation and low humidity — are more typical of Southern California’s fall fire season, the north has seen its share of horrific autumn wildfires.

The state’s second-deadliest blaze is the October 1991 Tunnel fire in the Oakland and Berkeley hills, which erupted on a quiet Sunday and killed 25 people.

The Tunnel fire also ranks as the most destructive wildfire in California history, consuming 2,900 structures.

Two years ago the Valley fire roared across Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties, killing four people and destroying 1,995 buildings.

Survivors’ accounts and sheriff’s dispatch recordings tell harrowing tales of the chaos that struck Sunday night.

Eric Anderson managed a narrow escape from his home on Mark West Springs Road, where the flames swooped down just before 10 p.m. and exploded into the town below, destroying hundreds of homes.

“It just came through there, like a blowtorch,” said Anderson, a contractor. “I saw fire trucks racing up Martin West and then, five minutes later, I saw them racing down. I said, time to get out of here.”

Read the rest:

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-fires-20171010-story.html

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Ten dead as thousands flee California fires

October 10, 2017

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GLEN ELLEN, CA – OCTOBER 09: A resident rushes to save his home as an out of control wildfire moves through the area on October 9, 2017 in Glen Ellen, California. Tens of thousands of acres and dozens of homes and businesses have burned in widespread wildfires that are burning in Napa and Sonoma counties. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Many people are missing, with reports that escape roads were blocked by fire and downed trees in northern California wine country.

Sky News

At least 10 people are dead and two have been seriously injured in fires in northern California.

A state of emergency has been declared in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties, north of San Francisco Bay.

Before (left) and after (Right)

Before: Google Earth. After: California Highway Patrol, via Reuters.

They are among eight counties affected by 14 major fires, which have burned through more than 49,000 acres and destroyed at least 1,500 homes.

There were mandatory evacuations for up to 20,000 people late on Sunday but some residents found that escape roads were blocked by downed trees and flames.

Flames overtake a structure as nearby homes burn in the Napa wine region in California on October 9, 2017, as multiple wind-driven fires continue to whip through the region
Image:Flames overtake a structure as nearby homes burn in the Napa wine region

One of the deaths occurred in Mendocino County and two others were in Napa County. The other seven were in Sonoma County.

The two people who were seriously injured have severe burns and are in a critical condition in hospital.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle. more than 100 people have been treated for injuries, including burns and smoke inhalation, at hospitals in Napa and Sonoma counties.

An inmate firefighter monitors flames as a house burns in the Napa wine region in California on October 9, 2017, as multiple wind-driven fires continue to whip through the region
Image:A house burns in the Napa wine region, one of many counties being affected

In Napa County, fire chief Barry Biermann said the fires had burned more than 68 square miles but crews were struggling to control the flames.

He added: “Right now, with these conditions, we can’t get ahead of this fire and do anything about the forward progress.”

The largest city in the fire area is Santa Rosa, with a population of about 175,000. There, houses and business were ruined, schools were closed and two hospitals were forced to evacuate hundreds of patients.

A Hilton Hotel was among the buildings that were left in ruins.

Hillsides alight above wineries in California's Napa Valley

Video:Wildfires ribbon across Napa Valley hillsides

Jeff Okrepkie had fled from his Santa Rosa home but was later sent a photo of what remained: a heap of burnt metal and debris.

He told Associated Press: “We live in the valley, where it’s concrete and strip malls and hotels and supermarkets.

Fire consumes a barn as an out of control wildfire moves through the area on October 9, 2017 in Glen Ellen, California
Image:A barn on fire in Sonoma County, where a state of emergency has been declared

“The last thing you think is a forest fire is going to come and wipe us out.”

Smoke was thick in San Francisco, around 60 miles south of the fire in Sonoma County.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection director Ken Pimlott said: “Imagine a wind-whipped fire burning at explosive rates.

“This is 50 miles per hour.

“Literally it’s burning into the city of Santa Rosa… burning box stores.

“This is traditionally California’s worst time for fires, California’s most damaging times for fires have occurred in October.”

A police car blocks the 241 freeway as smoke from the Canyon 2 Fire covers the freeway near Orange, California, October 9, 2017 in Orange, California
Image:There have also been evacuations in California’s Orange County

Further south, there have been more evacuations in California’s Orange County due to a fire.

Television showed homes ruined by flames in the Anaheim Hills area, where at least 1,000 homes were previously evacuated.

That fire has grown to 2,000 acres and is being fought by 200 firefighters.

http://news.sky.com/story/at-least-one-person-dead-in-california-fires-11074317

Fire-hit Greece calls off EU help as PM says conditions improve

August 16, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Greek firefighters and volunteers trying to extinguish a fire east of Athens, as the army was called in to assist the effort
ATHENS (AFP) – Greece on Wednesday called off a request for European assistance in battling wildfires as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said firefighters had gained the upper hand in halting a destructive blaze near Athens after three days.”The worst has been avoided,” Tsipras said after flying over the disaster zone northeast of Athens by helicopter, adding that about 3,700 acres (1,500 hectares) of forest and scrubland had been ravaged.

“Fortunately there are no victims… the damage was limited through your superhuman efforts,” Tsipras told firefighters.

Authorities said they had finally placed under control a huge wildfire in Kapandriti and Kalamos that had broken out on Monday in an area dotted with vacation homes.

It took nearly 300 firefighters, 100 soldiers, five air bombers and seven helicopters to check its advance.

At least five properties were destroyed, authorities said.

“The situation is better this morning,” a fire department source told AFP.

As a result, fire service spokeswoman Stavroula Malliri said Greece had cancelled a request for European assistance.

“International assistance was deemed unnecessary. The dispatch of firefighters from Cyprus and fire-fighting aircraft has been cancelled,” she said.

But Malliri said active fronts remained on the island of Zakynthos and in the western Peloponnese, though the situation was improving there as well.

Greek officials say many of the fires were thought to have been started deliberately.

The fire service said an incendiary device had been found in a forest on the island of Samos on Tuesday.

High winds hamper Greek firefighting efforts

August 15, 2017

AFP

© AFP | More than 90 wildfires have broken out across Greece since Sunday
ATHENS (AFP) – Greek firefighters were struggling to control blazes for a third successive day Tuesday, as flames fanned by high winds forced people to flee homes near the capital.

Fires on the coast near Athens, in the western Peloponnese and the Ionian island of Zakynthos were of most pressing concern, a fire service spokesman told AFP.

The army was called in to assist firefighters around Kalamos, 45 kilometres (30 miles) east of Athens, where a fire has been burning since Sunday.

At least five properties were destroyed and several homes evacuated, authorities said, as smoke from the blaze clouded the sky in the capital on Tuesday morning.

More than 90 fires broke out across Greece since Sunday, according to authorities.

Firefighters were also battling flames near the town of Amaliada in the western Peloponnese and on the tourist hotspot island of Zakynthos, where several fires — some thought to have been started deliberately — were raging.

“Such a situation is unheard of,” regional fire chief Vassili Matteopoulos told local media on Monday.

“We had 22 fires on Zakynthos just in the last 24 hours.”

Efforts to control the blazes were complicated by winds reaching speeds of 40-50 kilometres per hour, according to the fire service.

Soaring temperatures and tinder-dry forest floors across southern Europe have led to a rash of devastating wild fires, notably in Portugal, where 64 people died in a massive inferno in June.

Southeastern France and Corsica have also been affected.

In Portugal on Tuesday, some 1,450 firefighters were tending to least four blazes in the central Santarem and Castelo Branco regions, the emergency services said.

Firefighters battle spreading wildfire near Athens, homes damaged

August 14, 2017

Reuters

AUGUST 14, 2017 / 3:57 AM

ATHENS (Reuters) – Firefighters battled to contain a wildfire near Athens on Monday after it spread overnight to three towns some 45 km (30 miles) northeast of the capital and damaged dozens of homes.

The blaze broke out around 1300 GMT on Sunday in Kalamos, a coastal holiday spot northeast of Athens and quickly spread, fanned by strong and changing winds.

A state of emergency was declared in the area as the blaze burned pine forest and thick smoke billowed above. By Monday afternoon, the fire’s perimeter had expanded to “dozens of kilometers” authorities said, and the smell of smoke hovered over central Athens.

More than 200 firefighters with five dozen fire engines, four water-dropping helicopters and one plane tackled the blaze but a rugged terrain dispersed with small communities made the fire fighting task difficult, the fire brigade said.

Authorities had ordered a precautionary evacuation of two youth camps and homes in the area, and evacuated a monastery after flames briefly reached its fence on Monday.

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A firefighter tries to extinguish a fire at a house during a forest fire at Kalamos village, north of Athens, on Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017. Photo: Yorgos Karahalis, AP

Hundreds of residents fled the area of Kalamos, heading to the beach to spend the night.

“It was a terrible mess, that’s what it was. You could see homes on fire, people running, people desperate, it was chaos and the fire was very big,” a resident told Reuters TV.

Andreas Theodorou, a local councillor, said the blaze had damaged “several dozens of homes.”

More than 90 forest fires have been recorded in the last 24 hours across the country, with the most serious fronts near Athens, in the Peloponnese and on the Ionian islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia in western Greece.

“It’s arson according to an organized plan,” Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis, who is also the MP for Zakythnos, told state TV when asked to comment on the dozen fires burning on the island in the last two days. “There is no doubt about it.”

The cause of the wildfires was not known but summer blazes are common in Greece. More than 70 died in 2007 during the worst fires in decades.

Additional reporting by Lefteris Papadimas and George Georgiopoulos; Writing by Karolina Tagaris, editing by Pritha Sarkar

Portugal Asks for Help From Europe to Fight Fires — Thousands of firemen currently engaged — Portugal’s worst fire disaster in memory

August 13, 2017

LISBON — More than 3,000 firemen struggled to put out forest fires across Portugal on Sunday, after the country requested assistance from Europe to fight blazes that threaten to spread with more hot weather in the coming days.

Exceptionally dry and hot weather ignited Portugal’s worst fire disaster in memory early this summer, killing 64 people, and fires have continued to flare up in recent weeks with the arrival of each new hotter spell of weather.

Interior Minister Constanca Urbana de Sousa said the country sent the request for help to Europe late on Saturday because of concerns that high temperatures and high winds in the coming days could increase the number of fires.

Firefighters in June tried to bring a fire under control in a valley near Góis, Portugal. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

The minister said the request was carried out “because of a question of prudence” due to the weather forecast for coming days, according to news agency Lusa. It covered requests for firefighting airplanes and firemen and is part of a European mechanism for cooperation to fight fires.

Emergency services said 268 fires broke out on Saturday, the highest number for any single day this year, with 6,500 firemen fighting to put them out. There are fears that many of them could flare up again later on Sunday, with higher winds and temperatures that hit in the afternoon.

The central district of Coimbra adopted a local state of emergency to deal with fires, as did four smaller municipalities in the region.

While fires have burned through the summer none has had the tragic impact of the one in late June, as emergency services have gone to far greater efforts to evacuate villages and shut roads early in affected areas.

But the country could face many more weeks of fires before the end of summer.

More than 140,000 hectares of forest have burned this summer in Portugal, more than three times higher than the average over the last 10 years, according to European Union data.

(Reporting By Axel Bugge; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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Portugal Forest Fires Worsen, Fed by Poor Choices and Inaction

282 hot spots detected across Indonesia

August 6, 2017

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Indonesia — Fire-fighting operations in South Sumatra, one of the five provinces currently in a state of emergency. Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB)

JAKARTA – Indonesian satellites on Sunday (Aug 6) morning picked up 282 hot spots – believed to be the highest number across the country this year – as the dry season continues.

The worst hit province was West Kalimantan, where more than half of the hot spots were detected, said National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) spokesman, Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, as he released the figures yesterday (Aug 6) evening.

Five districts in the province – Kubu Raya, Ketapang, Sekadau, Melawi and Bengkayang – have declared a state of emergency to enable local authorities to access central government support, including military assistance, to put out the fires.

Dr Sutopo also expressed concern that although 150 hot spots were detected across West Kalimantan, the number of fires there may be higher.

“Land and forest fires in West Kalimantan continue despite our continued efforts to suppress them,” he added.

He warned that the number of hot spots is probably higher as the satellites may not have passed over all the forest and land areas where fires could be burning.

Other areas in Indonesia were also hit by forest fires, albeit not as badly as in 2015 when the burning of forest and peatland in Kalimantan and Sumatra produced a transboundary haze, which blanketed the region and led to record air pollution levels for months.

Aside from those in West Kalimantan, the hot spots were spread across other provinces such as South Sumatra (23 hot spots), South Sulawesi (18), Riau (16) and East Nusa Tenggara (12).

Dr Sutopo said the hot spots were spotted on private plantation land, community-owned land and in national parks, in hard-to-reach locations.

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An Indonesian woman and a child walk on a bamboo bridge as thick yellow haze shrouds Palangkaraya on Oct 22, 2015. AFP photo

“The areas burned are generally areas that are difficult to access and away from settlements, that is why (the fires) are difficult to extinguish,” he added.

As of Saturday, 18 helicopters have been deployed for fire-fighting operations in Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and South Kalimantan. All five provinces are currently in a state of emergency.

Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said last Sunday that helicopters will deployed to put out fires over areas where there is limited road access.

“If land access is difficult or shut down for a long time, then we will use water-bombings,” she said.

The dry season in Indonesia is forecast to end in September, at the earliest.

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/282-hot-spots-detected-across-indonesia-on-sunday

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Carbon monoxide concentrations world-wide during the Indonesian burning season, 2015

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Indonesian military officer orders that forest burners be shot — authorities struggle to contain fires that cause choking smoke in the region

August 5, 2017

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky, outdoor and nature

An Indonesian ranger inspecting the peat forest fire at Meulaboh, Aceh province. PHOTO: AFP 

JAKARTA (REUTERS) – A military official in the Indonesian province of Jambi said on Saturday (Aug 5) that he has ordered that anyone who deliberately sets fire to forest areas be shot, as the authorities struggle to contain fires that cause choking smoke in the region.

Five Indonesian provinces have declared emergencies because of forest fires, according to Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), with the number of hotspots steadily increasing in many areas over the past week.

The BNPB is working with many government branches, including the military, to contain the fires.

Indonesian media have reported that the authorities in the neighbouring province of South Sumatra, also on the island of Sumatra, had issued the same order.

“This is to stress a point to the people, who have been warned many, many times,” said Colonel Refrizal, commander of the forest fire task force in Jambi. “(This is) to show our firmness and seriousness.”

The order would be carried out “responsibly”, said Refrizal, who goes by one name.

BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Twitter the Jambi task force was working to extinguish a fire covering an area of 10 hectares (25 acres).

Nugroho also said the authorities had found one area in Jambi that had been “intentionally” burned by its owner.

The number of hotspots had increased to 239 by July 30, from 173 hotspots three days earlier, according to the BNPB.

The hotspots were seen mostly on Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo island, with some also on Sumatra and Java island.

The agency had previously warned that the threat of forest fires would escalate, with the dry season expected to peak in September.

Indonesia is regularly hit by forest fires, which can result in choking smoke blowing across to neighbouring countries like Singapore and Malaysia.

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An Indonesian woman and a child walk on a bamboo bridge as thick yellow haze shrouds Palangkaraya on Oct 22, 2015. AFP photo

The sprawling South-east Asian archipelago suffered some of its worst forest fires in 2015, hitting Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The World Bank, citing government data, said 2.6 million hectares (6.4 million acres) of land in Indonesia burned between June and October 2015, causing US$16 billion (S$21.7 billion) of estimated economic damage.

Draining and conversion of peatland, often driven by palm oil plantations, contributed to the intensity of haze from the fires, the World Bank said.

Related:

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Carbon monoxide concentrations world-wide during the Indonesian burning season, 2015

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Portugal is likely to see more massive forest fires

June 19, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Laurence COUSTAL | Heat waves have become more frequent in Portugal, say experts

PARIS (AFP) – Highly exposed to global warming’s climate-altering impacts, Portugal is likely to see more massive forest fires such as the one — still raging — that has killed at least 60 people this weekend, experts say.- Why Portugal, why now? –

The Iberian peninsula encompassing Portugal and Spain is experiencing a warmer, drier June than usual, explains Thomas Curt, a researcher at France’s Irstea climate and agriculture research institute.

Added to that, the country has vast expanses of highly inflammable plants, including forests of pine and eucalyptus trees.

“Hotter air is synonymous with drier and more inflammable vegetation,” said Curt. “The more the mercury climbs, so does the risk of fires and their intensity.”

Temperatures in the region have warmed by more than the global average over the past half century, according to a 2014 review of climate change impacts on Portugal.

Heat waves have become more frequent, and annual rainfall slightly less, said the review published in the journal WIREs Climate Change.

More frequent and pronounced heat waves are expected in future, accompanied by a “substantial increase” in fire risk — “both in severity and in length of the fire season,” it said.

– Does global warming boost forest fire risk? –

“It is certain — we are experiencing a rise in temperatures,” said Curt.

The Northern hemisphere summer has lengthened over the past 50 years from July-to-August, to June-to-October now — meaning a longer fire risk season.

There has been an increase in major fires of more than 100 hectares, and so-called “megafires” of more than 1,000 hectares, the researcher added.

“It is truly a growing problem everywhere in the world, and notably in Mediterranean Europe.”

These mega blazes remain rare — only about 2-3 percent of all fires — but are responsible for about three-quarters of all surface burnt.

“Many analyses of climate change show that these major fires will become more and more likely,” said Curt.

– What to do? –

In the short term, reinforce firefighting capacity, deploy patrols, set up watchtowers to raise the alarm, and ban fire-making everywhere.

Over the longer term, human settlements and green areas will need to be substantially redesigned, experts say.

Some forest will have to be cut back, undergrowth cleared, and residential areas moved further from scrubland and forest borders, to reduce the risk to life and property.

“The focus of efforts should shift from combating forest fires as they arise to preventing them from existing, through responsible long-term forest management,” green group WWF said.

“Responsible forest management is more effective and financially more efficient than financing the giant firefighting mechanisms that are employed every year.”

In the yet longer term, added Curt, “of course, we need to curtail global warming itself.”

by Laurence COUSTAL

Deadly wildfires around the world

June 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP | One of Australia’s worst wildfires killed around 173 people in 2009

PARIS (AFP) – Portuguese firefighters kept up the battle Sunday after one of the worst wildfire disasters in recent history killed at least 62 people.Here is a rundown of some of the deadliest wildfires around the world over the past two centuries.

– Australia –

In February 2009, at least 173 people die in brush fires in the south east, notably in the state of Victoria where entire towns and more than 2,000 houses are destroyed. The fires lasts several weeks before being contained by thousands of firemen and volunteers. It is one of the worst fires ever recorded in Australia.

– China –

In May 1987, the deadliest forest fire in recent Chinese history kills 119 in the northeast of the country, injuring 102 and leaving 51,000 homeless.

– France –

In August 1949, in the southwest Landes region, 82 rescue workers are killed. The victims — firemen, volunteers and soldiers — are caught in a ball of fire after the winds suddenly changed direction.

– Greece –

In 2007, 77 people die at the end of August in unprecedented forest fires that ravaged 250,000 hectares (2,500 square kilometres) in the southern Peloponnese and the island of Evia, northeast of Athens. The fires are the worst recorded in Greece in recent years.

– Portugal –

In June 2017, a fire roars through Portugal’s central Leiria region, killing at least 62 people and injuring over 50 more.

In 1966, a fire in the forest of Sintra, west of Lisbon, kills 25 soldiers fighting the blaze.

– Russia –

Around 60 people die between July and August 2010 as fires rage in over a million hectares of forest, bogs and brushwood, burning entire villages in the western part of the country during an unprecedented heatwave and drought.

– United States –

Likely the country’s deadliest, a wildfire struck Peshtigo, Wisconsin in October 1871, killing between 800 and 1,200 people. The fire had been burning for several days before it ripped into the forested village with a population of 1,700, destroying it in a matter of hours. It also damaged 16 other villages and destroyed 500,000 hectares of land.

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