Wildfires continue to rage in Western United States

Jose Castro – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Happy Camp, CA, United States (4E) – Lightning strikes in Klamath National Forest in Northern California had ignited two separate wildfires. The said fires are now near 250 homes in the rural area called Happy Camp. This is the 19th and 20th fire that had broken out in the forest since August 11, 2014.

According to Weather.com meteorologist Chrissy Warrilow, “Temperatures are warm in northern California, in the mild to upper 80s. Dew points are low as well, producing a dry feel to the atmosphere. This combined with lack of rain will unfortunately ventilate and strengthen current wildfire activity in northern California.”

This was seconded by Forest Service spokesperson Marc Peebles. He said that low humidity and warm weather for the past days in the Klamath National Forest had continued to sweep the terrain littered with dry trees caused by the drought. The fires were located one mile east of Happy Camp, a logging and gold mining town in the reaches of the national forest.

Peebles added, “These trees are very stressed. They are very dry. Firefighters are seeing burning conditions like they have never seen before or for many years.”

NASA recently released satellite imagery of how the wildfires were in California. There is a disparity, despite the state suffering under severe drought conditions, as Southern California has had a relatively quiet fire calendar since a number of forest fires were ablaze in San Diego County last May. On the other end, Northern California has been overwhelmed by wildfires. The problems is the number not the amount of acreage affected.

Overall, the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had been called to put out a total of 4,294 wildfires. This is well above the year to year average of just 3,311.

These last two fires at Happy Camp have been reported as the largest in the 20 for August. They merged to form one large fire, after having eaten up a total of 90 square miles. A number of homes were threatened by the fire and their inhabitants were mandatorily evacuated, together with other structures within the forest. The order was issued by the Siskiyou County Sheriff and has a coverage of 44,549 acres deemed off limits due to wildfire danger.

There were 2,000 firefighters called to the scene backed up by 11 helicopters. The forecast of winds for the afternoon may prove to make things difficult for them, especially towards the evening, with only just 15% of the fire contained. The conflagration is called the Happy Camp Complex fire, which covers the 38,989 acre Frying Pan Fire and the Faulkstein Fire, which has an area of 5,225 acres. The Frying Pan Fire is at 10% containment while the Faulkstein Fire is at zero %. There are 15 other smaller fires that were reported but have been fully contained by the firefighters on the site.

Other California area fires were being fought elsewhere. Amongst them was about 18 miles south of the Happy Camp fire also in Klamath National Forest. It was reported 73% contained after mandatory evacuations were also undertaken.

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