By Miriam Raftery
Photo by Richard Edwords, El Dorado Fire
September 18, 2020 (San Bernadino) – At least 26 people have lost their lives in 27 wildfires burning statewide, including a firefighter killed yesterday battling the El Dorado Fire in San Bernadino National Forest, the Natoinal Forest Service reports. The firefighter's name has not yet been released. That 21,000 acre blaze was started by a pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal party; the responsible parties could be held accountable for millions of dollars in property damage and now, a death.
The fires scorching California and other western states are so massive that smoke has drifted across the U.S. and is visible as far away as New York the BBC news reports. More than 3 million acres have burned, far surpassing all prior recorded fires in California.
In Butte County, seven people died in the Bear Fire, part of the North Complex Fire, when the firestorm traveled 30 miles in a night, trapping residents at Berry Creek. The victims ranged in age from 16 to 70, CNN reports.
Climate scientists interviewed by the Los Angeles Times say that climate change is fueling the unprecedented fires, which have fueled devastating destruction and air pollution in a year that’s also seen heat records shattered.
Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, concludes, “Maybe we underestimated the magnitude and speed” at which these events would occur, he said, but “we’ve seen this long freight train barreling down on us for decades, and now the locomotive is on top of us, with no caboose in sight.”
For the latest information on California wildfires, see https://www.fire.ca.gov/daily-wildfire-report/.