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Two massive wildfires in California have destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses and led authorities to issue a new mandatory evacuation order for thousands of people in the state’s north overnight. The Dixie Fire and the River Fire have devastated several California towns and firefighters are still struggling to contain the spread of both of them. According to The Epoch Times, the Dixie Fire, California’s biggest blaze, has been burning for over three weeks. Officials said the fire tore through a small mountain community on Wednesday evening, wiping out everything on its reach as intense winds fueled the blaze. Firefighters tried to protect the town by clearing debris from roads and marking hazards. But it wasn’t enough to contain the destruction caused by the flames. The tragedy came amid a red flag alert issued by forecasters warning of hot, bone-dry conditions with winds up to 40 mph, which could drive flames through timber, brush, and grass, particularly along the northern and northeastern sides of the huge Dixie Fire. Given how rapidly the flames were spreading, local officials urged residents to escape.
Since breaking out on July 14, the fire has threatened thousands of homes and completely destroyed an estimated 67 buildings. Up until that point, the wildfire was 35 percent contained. But as it ripped through Greenville on Wednesday night, hitting the small town about 115 miles northeast of Sacramento, it ended up destroying more than 75% of the historic town, causing a disaster of unimaginable proportions.
Many of the residents lost everything they owned and had built over decades of hard work in a single night. The three-week-old Dixie Fire is one of 100 active, large fires currently burning in 14 states, most in the West where an unprecedented drought has left lands parched and ripe for ignition. So far, the fire has consumed about 565 square miles, an area even larger than the size of Los Angeles. Fire officials disclosed that the blaze hit Greenville from two different angles, and several firefighters already were in place when it hit, but they had to risk their lives trying to save people who had refused to evacuate by loading them into cars to get them out. Even before the flames arrived in Greenville, dozens of homes had already been burned along the way.
Meanwhile, another fire was brewing 60 miles south of the ruined Greenville. The blaze called the “River Fire” has burned over 2,400 acres and destroyed 80 buildings across two counties. It is currently raging in Nevada and Placer counties, but officials said some 100 homes and other buildings burned as the River Fire rapidly moved before breaking out Wednesday near Colfax, a town of about 2,000. In Placer County, approximately 2,400 people are under evacuation. While in Nevada County, more than 4,200 residents are under an evacuation order or warning.
Yesterday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in three northern counties because of the River Fire and the Antelope Fire, which has already destroyed over 20,000 acres since it was first reported on August 1. Red flag warnings remain in effect for dry and windy conditions. The damages caused by the fires will not only distress hundreds of families but also put the entire U.S. food supply chain at risk of facing major disruptions and widespread shortages, as thousands of acres of crops were entirely lost. To make matters worse, in the areas where the fires are burning, temperatures are expected to get hotter, with Redding forecast to approach 100 degrees over the next few days. That, in turn, will increase vulnerability to even more intense fires and the dramatic worsening of the drought all over Northern California and several other nearby states. This is a truly devastating crisis, and sadly, it is far from over yet. Scientists reported that some of the California fires are so intense they can be seen from space. In all, over 16,000 people were evacuated already, but according to Bloomberg, 31,000 more are expected to be evacuated until tomorrow morning.
Scorching hot temperatures and a historic drought tied to climate change are making it exceedingly harder to fight the wildfires that are wreaking havoc in the West. Scientists argue that climate change has made the region significantly warmer and drier over the past 30 years, and now that the megadrought has begun, we will see even more extreme weather conditions and wildfires are likely to become more frequent and destructive. Global events are rapidly spiraling out of control, and this painful tragedy illustrates how rapidly entire cities can be destroyed. Now more than ever, it is time to prepare for the dark times that are rapidly approaching us.