The Northern California wildfires continue to bring staggering statistics to the fold. Over a dozen massive blazes are still burning with — for the most part — little or no containment and no rain in the forecast for another week. The New York Times is currently reporting the death toll at 17 people, which will likely increase since over 240 missing person reports have been filed. Over 2000 structures have been leveled with 120,000+ acres destroyed thus far.
These fires are burning particularly strong for a few reasons, including an unstoppable wind and — paradoxically — the end of California’s multi-year drought this spring. So, there’s an abundance of vegetation for the taking, and the fire’s hunger has been particularly severe in Napa and Sonoma counties. The “football field” descriptor from CNN is particularly stunning:
The area burned so far in Napa and Sonoma is three times larger than Washington, D.C.
The fires torched 20,000 acres in about 12 hours on Monday alone. This means the fires advanced at a rate of more than a football field every three seconds.
Evacuation orders are also still increasing as new blazes (including one in Orange County overnight) pop up and existing ones grow. Over 25,000 people have been forced from their homes, and a total of 35,000 have lost power. Cellular service has also waned in several affected areas, which is only contributing to the difficulties faced by residents and rescuers.
Firefighters — faced with no immediate prospect of rain and winds that are forecast to intensify later this week — are relying upon containment strategies such as burning vegetation ahead of the infernos, so as to decrease the possibility of further advancement. Still, Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott tells the New York Times that the largest fires in Napa and Sonoma (where 60,000+ acres have burned) are “zero percent contained.”
In short, there’s little relief from Mother Nature in sight for Californians, and for some real perspective, here’s an auto-updating Google map showing the current locations of the state’s fires: