Towering infernos are already here in The West

42,000-foot plumes of ash. 143-mph firenadoes. 1,500-degree heat. These wildfires are a new kind of hell on earth, and scientists are racing to learn its rules...

By the time California’s 2018 fire season was over, it had burned more than 1.6 million acres to become the most destructive on record—a title it maintained for slightly less than 20 months, when it was overtaken not by the 2020 fire season but by a mere four weeks in late summer 2020, during which an estimated 3 million acres burned. But that’s not the truly worrisome part. In making sense of Western wildfires, total acres burned are far less important than the increasingly capricious violence of our most extreme blazes. It is as if we’ve crossed some threshold of climate and fire fuel into an era of uncontrollable conflagrations.

“Not only is the size and severity increasing, but the nature of fire is changing,” says David Saah, director of Pyregence, a group of fire-science labs and researchers collaborating on the problem. Still more concerning, given the trend toward fires dramatically more catastrophic than anything we’ve yet seen: The physics of large-scale wildfires remain so poorly understood that fire-modeling software is often effectively powerless to predict where they will next occur, much less how they will unfold once they do. If there is any good news, it is that, as Saah puts it, “the science for a lot of this stuff is under way.”

If you’re interested in how a large portion of this nation is being destroyed in a war between nature and nature management that hasn’t kept up with reality…better read this article. If you live out here in the West – as I do – you should read it for a better chance at survival.

14 thoughts on “Towering infernos are already here in The West

  1. McLeod says:

    Private firefighters allegedly set illegal backfires during the Glass Fire, which has burned over 67,000 acres and 643 residences
    For the last 15 years we have been aware of insurance companies sending fire engines to protect high-valued homes that were covered by their policies when a wildfire approaches. Companies such as Chubb and Wildfire Defense figure keeping a multi-million dollar home from burning is less expensive than paying to rebuild it, so they contract with private companies to send firefighters to their customers properties when smoke is in the air.
    Video shows private firefighters being detained for setting possibly illegal backfires : CAL Fire confirms an investigation is underway that could result in charges and arrests.

  2. Peshtigo says:

    California Wildfires Could Cause At Least $10 Billion in Damage, Economists Believe (includes video) A New York Times report published in mid-September echoed the Stanford economists’ estimations, finding that in three of the past four years, including 2020, fires in California are on track to cause damages in excess of $10 billion.
    (NYT 9/16/20): “How Much Will the Wildfires Cost? Measuring the damage is critical for making better policy choices in the future, one expert says.”
    (Oct 11, 2020): “State investigators attempt to determine if PG&E equipment sparked fatal wildfire : confiscate PG&E gear amid probe into Shasta County wildfire ” Beginning in 2015 PG&E’s equipment has caused a string of lethal wildfires in Northern California. Last June PG&E pleaded guilty and was convicted of 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for its role in the Camp Fire and this investigation comes just months after the company emerged from a $51.69 billion bankruptcy case spawned by PG&E’s debts and wildfire-linked liabilities.

  3. Mike says:

    “California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) office said the Trump administration rejected the state’s request for a disaster declaration following six wildfires that tore through the state earlier this year, including the largest single blaze in the state’s history.
    “The request for a Major Presidential Disaster Declaration for early September fires has been denied by the federal administration,” Brian Ferguson, a spokesperson for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, told CNN.
    The Hill has reached out to the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for comment.”
    (8/20/20): “President Donald Trump on Thursday blamed California for its raging wildfires and threatened to withhold federal money, reprising his attacks from previous rounds of catastrophic blazes.
    “I see again the forest fires are starting,” he said at a rally in swing-state Pennsylvania. “They’re starting again in California. I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests — there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they’re like, like, so flammable, you touch them and it goes up.”
    “Maybe we’re just going to have to make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us,” he added.”
    Note that “In California state, the federal government owns nearly 58% of the 33 million acres of forest, according to the state governor’s office. The state itself owns just three per cent, with the rest owned by private individuals or companies or Native American groups.”

  4. Update says:

    Fireball-dropping drones and the new technology helping fight fires : Technology old and new is being pulled into the battle against California’s fires. (National Geographic 10/19/20)
    More than 8.3 million acres have burned across the country this year, according to the National Fire Interagency Center (10/16/20)

  5. Fuel4Thought says:

    “This is what fuels the West’s infernos : Scorching heat, a thirsty atmosphere and relentless winds: How the North Complex Fire spread so far, so fast.” (interactive) (scroll)
    “…Extreme fires like the North Complex are almost impossible to fight safely, experts say, and they are becoming more common. Five of California’s six biggest recorded wildfires, including the North Complex, happened in 2020. The August Complex, at more than 1 million acres, is the state’s first “gigafire” to occur since at least 1932.
    Research shows that human-caused climate change bears much of the blame.
    The land west of the Rockies is hotter than it’s been in centuries. Average temperatures in California are now 1 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in the preindustrial era.”
    See “Large contribution from anthropogenic warming to an emerging North American megadrought”

  6. A-firm says:

    “Two largest wildfires in Colorado history are burning at the same time, 10 miles apart”
    “Tough Fire Season Takes Toll on Firefighters’ Mental Health” (Pew Charitable Trust 10/22/20)

  7. Heads up says:

    (Oct. 26, 2020 at 7:54 p.m. MDT) California is enduring its day of highest wildfire risk in a year that has featured unrelenting assaults from Mother Nature, with a fire season that has set records for the total amount of acres burned (more than 4.1 million) and for the size and destructiveness of the blazes.
    The Weather Service forecast office in Los Angeles said the Santa Ana winds there are the strongest the region has seen this year and have the potential to contribute to a conflagration through Tuesday. So far, winds have gusted as high as 96 mph in the San Gabriel Mountains, the Weather Service reported.
    The Weather Service has expressed concern about upcoming conditions in the East Bay hills [east of San Francisco and Oakland CA] referencing the 1923 fire in Berkeley and the 1991 Tunnel Fire in the Oakland Hills.
    Upper air wind speeds show the jet stream diving southward, carving out a dip, or trough, over the Great Basin, which is leading Monday to the strong offshore wind event in California.

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