california fires
November 14, 2018

The Camp Fire in Northern California's Butte County, the deadliest blaze in state history, has killed at least 56 people, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials said on Wednesday evening.

The death toll is expected to grow even higher, as dozens of people remain missing and crews with cadaver dogs are looking in the rubble of destroyed homes for remains. The fire obliterated the town of Paradise, where most of the victims lived. Officials said 10,300 structures have burned and more than 138,000 acres were scorched. As of Wednesday night, the fire is 35 percent contained. The cause of the fire is under investigation, but about two dozen people who lost their homes have sued Pacific Gas & Electric Co., claiming the utility did not maintain or properly inspect power lines, and their negligence led to the fire.

In Southern California, the Woolsey Fire continues to burn in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, but the Santa Ana winds are not as strong as they were, which has helped firefighters. The cause of that fire, which has destroyed 482 structures, remains under investigation. About 98,362 acres — roughly the size of Denver — have burned, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Despite a flare-up early in the morning, the fire is 52 percent contained. The death toll from the Woolsey Fire now stands at three. Catherine Garcia

November 13, 2018

About 200 of the firefighters battling California's deadly Camp Fire are inmates, a local ABC affiliate reports, who have joined a volunteer firefighting program through the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The inmate firefighters earn $2 per day plus $1 per hour for their work, which is well above average for prison wages in the state. They can also receive time off their sentences. Previous blazes have seen far larger groups of inmates at work; around 2,000 participated in efforts to stop the Mendocino Complex Fire earlier this year.

Despite the training and experience inmates accrue through the firefighting program, they likely will not be able to become firefighters upon release. California firefighters are required to be licensed emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and EMT licensure can be blocked for anyone with a criminal record.

"The persistent, horrific wildfires year after year make this human rights issue even more pressing for the men and women fighting these fires every day who cannot do so once released," Katherine Katcher of Root and Rebound, which works on prison re-entry issues in California, told Reason. The state's licensing rules, Katcher said, "shut people out of living wage careers that they are trained and qualified for solely because of old, expunged, and irrelevant convictions." Bonnie Kristian

November 11, 2018

California residents should start expecting major wildfires to break out throughout the year, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said on Sunday.

"This is not the new normal, this is the new abnormal," he said. "And this abnormal will continue certainly in the next 10 to 15 to 20 years. Unfortunately, the best science is telling us that dryness, warmth, drought, all those things, they're going to intensify. We have a real challenge here threatening our whole way of life, so we've got to pull together."

There are several fires burning in both Northern and Southern California, with thousands of firefighters, including many from as far away as Idaho and Montana, battling the blazes. The fires have killed at least 31 people, destroyed nearly 7,000 structures, and burned nearly 200,000 acres.

Brown said when the vegetation and air is dry and winds hit gusts of up to 60 miles an hour, "this is what happens. We're in a new abnormal. Things like this will be a part of our future." Catherine Garcia

November 11, 2018

Several fires burning in Southern and Northern California have killed at least 31 people and destroyed about 7,000 buildings.

These wind-driven fires have burned 196,000 acres, Chief Scott Jalbert of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said on Sunday. The Camp Fire in Butte County has burned 109,000 acres since Thursday, destroyed 6,435 homes and 260 commercial buildings, and is now tied with the 1933 Griffith Park Fire as being the state's deadliest blaze, leaving at least 29 people dead. The Camp Fire is only 25 percent contained.

The Woolsey Fire in Southern California has scorched 83,275 acres over the last few days, burning down 177 structures in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties and leaving at least two people dead. The fire is just 10 percent contained. Catherine Garcia

November 9, 2018

Three wildfires continued to grow in California overnight, torching major roads and entire towns as wind sweeps them through both ends of the state.

In southern California, the Woolsey Fire has all of Malibu under mandatory evacuation, while the Hill Fire has mostly stuck to uninhabited areas, reports USA Today. And in the north, the Camp Fire quadrupled in size overnight and wiped out the entire town of Paradise, The Associated Press reports.

The Woolsey Fire is the smallest of the three, spanning Los Angeles and Ventura counties and quadrupling from 2,000 to 8,000 acres overnight, per CNN. It's led to evacuations in the eastern part of Thousand Oaks — the city that saw a mass shooting at a bar Wednesday night. As of Friday morning, the fire had crossed a major highway and will likely reach the Pacific Ocean, the Los Angeles County Fire Department warned. The Hill Fire has burned through 10,000 acres, but hasn't damaged any buildings, USA Today says.

The Camp Fire, meanwhile, grew to about 110 square miles overnight just north of Sacramento, a fire official tells AP. It totally demolished the 27,000-person town of Paradise and was stopped at the edge of Chico, a city of 90,000, on Thursday night. The fire is just five percent contained, leaving 15,000 homes and 2,000 commercial buildings in "imminent danger of burning," a fire official said. Get more details on the northern California fire at The Associated Press. Kathryn Krawczyk

August 6, 2018

The Holy fire in Southern California is moving at a rapid rate of speed, the Orange County Fire Authority said Monday afternoon, and has already burned more than 1,000 acres in just a few hours.

The fire broke out at around 1:30 p.m. PT in the Cleveland National Forest, across the main divide between Orange and Riverside counties, the OCFA said. Evacuations are underway in two canyons, Trabuco and Holy Jim, and two hikers who were stranded near the fire have been rescued.

There are both ground and air units fighting the blaze, and a huge, dark plume of smoke is visible for miles. Catherine Garcia

August 5, 2018

The Mendocino Complex fire in Northern California has burned more than 254,000 acres, making it the fifth largest blaze in the state's history.

Fire officials said 68 homes have been destroyed, 15,000 structures are threatened, and thousands of residents of Mendocino, Lake, and Colusa counties have been forced to evacuate. The Complex fire is actually two fires that have burned for several days: the Ranch fire, which has scorched 207,000 acres north of Clear Lake and is 23 percent contained, and the River fire, which has swept through 47,000 acres west of Clear Lake and is 53 percent contained, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The biggest fire ever recorded in California was the Thomas Fire last December, which burned 281,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The Mendocino Complex fire is one of 17 burning in the state. Catherine Garcia

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