Large fire activity picked up over the weekend, especially in the Southwest and Alaska areas. Currently the 30 active, large fires across five states have burned more than 65,000 acres bringing the total for the year to 550k, well below average for this time of year. This week could increase that total as high pressure is approaching the West Coast and will provide a warming and drying trend for most of the southern West. Breezy westerly winds are expected across Arizona and New Mexico and strong northeasterly winds with some of the lowest RH readings of the year across California. In tandem, the conditions will lead to elevated and critical fire weather concern (including red flag warnings) in many places.
The human-caused East Desert fire ignited Sunday afternoon near 24th Street and Desert Hills Drive in Cave Creek, Arizona. The fire originally only prompted the evacuation of a few homes west of the fire. However, due to wind and slope, the fire quickly grew to 1,000 acres by Sunday Night. Consequently, the forest service ordered additional crews, engines, and aircraft support. Then by Monday morning, the fire spread close to 1,500 acres into the Cahava Springs area, sparking additional evacuations of 130 homes immediately east of the fire. Thankfully overall, the fire has not destroyed any structures or caused any injuries.
Starting in early April, wildfires have been burning near the exclusion zone of the Chernobyl nuclear accident site. Knowingly, farmers started the fires to burn dry grass to prep the soil for the upcoming farming season. Burning the dry grass is a tradition in this region, so some residents started the fires to pay the annual homage. For a short time, the fires were contained. Recently, they flared up and are burning again due to strong winds. About 1,300 firefighters are working to contain the fires burning in three main areas. At this point, the fires have burned about 8,600 acres. Several abandoned villages are complete losses. Unfortunately, the smoke pollution is largely impacting Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv. The smoke consists of carbon emissions and aerosols. Residents of Kyiv are being advised to keep all windows closed.
Despite the trend of unprecedented wildfire destruction and the predictions for another above average potential for significant wildfire activity, the 2019 wildfire season was significantly less destructive. 2018 recorded over 49,000 fires for a total acreage of just of 4.5 million. The total acreage burned was almost half that of the previous 2 years and short of the 10 year average by more than 2 million acres.
The Bushfires in New South Wales (NSW), Australia are still burning. Officials have declared a state of emergency for the third time for NSW this fire season. The majority of the state is under a high to a very high fire danger rating with catastrophic conditions. There have been seventeen deaths reported across Australia, with most of them being in NSW. The bushfires have destroyed over 900 houses and 2,000 outbuildings.
Yet another winter storm is slated to send more rain to Southern California this week and we at RedZone think it warrants a little inside info on the risks of post-fire debris flows. Winter rains mean a higher potential for land-moving rainfall rates in areas where fires have scorched the landscape. After 2018’s tragic events that occurred in the Thomas fire burn scar, officials have not taken the potential of these continued storms lightly. Last winter, residents were evacuated near the Holy, Thomas, Cranston, Napa/Sonoma, and Woolsey fires (all burn scars from the last couple years).
Over 365,000 acres have burned along the eastern coast of Australia in the New South Wale (NSW), the country’s most populous state. As a result, officials declared a state of emergency for the entire state, as conditions have reached “catastrophic”, the nation’s highest bushfire danger rating. Tragically, three people have died while over 150 structures have been destroyed. Even worse, included in those destroyed was a wildlife sanctuary near Port Macquarie, which was home to as many as 350 koalas.
Just sixteen miles south of last week’s Saddleridge Fire, the Palisades Fire burned 40 acres between Palisades Dr and Charmel Ln in steep terrain yesterday afternoon, quickly spreading and prompting evacuations of a neighborhood of Pacific Palisades. Fortunately, hard work from air and ground crews saved the 200 homes that were threatened from damage or destruction and all have since been repopulated. This morning’s incident briefing portrayed a mop-up and perimeter-control day ahead of the crews. A direct ground attack is the main plan for the two divisions, with dozer(s) cleared to improve a nearby fire road, and an Structure Protection Group working the previously evacuated neighborhoods.
A fast-growing, wind-driven fire sparked near Yarnell Road off Interstate 210 just north of Sylmar in northern Los Angeles around 2100 PST Thursday night. By late Thursday it was less than 100 acres burning parallel to the 210 Freeway. Overnight, the fire grew to more than 4,000 acres jumping both the I-5 and I-210, burning into neighborhoods. The western branch of the fire got established near the I-5 and began burning westerly through medium to heavy brush threatening thousands of homes in the Porter Ranch and Granada Hills areas. The original fire or eastern branch has backed upslope with topography and is growing to the north and east above Sylmar. At least 25 homes were damaged reported in the morning press conference. 1,000 firefighters are working the fire, along with numerous helicopters and air resources. Additional resources will be implemented with the daylight, including 2 super scoopers. Angeles National Forest officials are in a unified command with Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County fire departments.
In what has become a big story this week, details are finally emerging about wildfires burning in South America’s Amazon Rainforest. The Amazon fires became bigger news Monday afternoon when Sao Paulo was buried under a cloud of smoke from the fires. Since multiple news outlets and even celebrities (through social media) have pointed out the fact that the South American rainforest’s burning could be detrimental for the earth considering they produce 20% of the world’s oxygen.