What to know: Huge wildfire tearing through Southern California
A huge forest fire in Southern California has spread over 48 square miles and continues to expand. A look at the destruction and what we know.
Thousands of people in the South of California were forced to evacuate on Tuesday as wind-whipped wildfires continue to blaze in Ventura County.
Officials said that the so-called “Thomas Fire,” which began Monday, about 60 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, has caused more than 27,000 people to evacuate, destroyed at least 150 structures and has scorched more than 45,000 acres so far.
The cause of the fire is still unknown.
No fatalities have been confirmed yet, Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said Tuesday. An unnamed firefighter has reportedly been injured. And three others were burned, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In the light of the Thomas Brand, here is what you need to know about fires California.
How do the fires start?
Approximately 95 percent of forest fires are caused by humans, Scott McLean, information officer at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, told Fox News.
A simple task, such as mowing the lawn, throwing a cigarette butt out the window, or the parking of a car on dry grass — can a spark a fire, ” he said.
For example, if a rock hits the lawn mower of the metal blades, that is usually enough friction to make a spark that can eventually start a fire, ” he said. And the warmth of a car to have a catalytic converter, a device that is under the control of the exhaust emissions, can reach up to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit — enough heat to create a fire, if the car is parked on dry, highly flammable grass.
“It only takes a spark to start a fire,” he said.
How are forest fires be stopped?
Officials are currently unsure what led to the fires in Southern California.
All of the forest fires bring mass destruction. But the way in which the fire is stopped varies, McLean said.
In other words, “the different vegetation and different scenarios up and down the state” of influence on how each brand is treated.
“You don’t just throw resources at a wildfire,” he said. “It is like a battle — you have to think what will be the most effective.”
Cal Fire usually depends on a mix of bulldozers, fire engines, inmate crews, and helicopters or aircraft, which spread things such as fire retardant, to stop fires.
With the help of containment lines, or large areas where a bulldozer cuts away vegetation to the point where only dirt remains, is very common, ” he said. But this is not always an accessible option.
“What would be the increase of the fire speed, which would slow down?,'” he asked. “Helicopter and aircraft are not effective with winds more than 30 miles per hour, and bulldozers can’t always get.”
Strong wind gusts also cause problems with fighting or controlling forest fires, he said. Regional atmospheric patterns that develop in the fall, the hot, dry wind gusts that sometimes reach up to 80 km per hour. This wind can create so-called “spot-fires” — that is, when an ember from the main wildfire is blown in a nearby bush or in the field, to eventually end up with a second fire.
“It’s like a burner,” he said.
Rain is usually welcome, as it can slow down or deter the fire, he said. But it may also create muddy conditions for bulldozers and the fire department and that affects how they can fight the fire.
“It’s like a burner.”
– Scott McLean
As for the Thomas Brand, however, McLean said resident safety comes on the first place-hence the evacuation that took place on Tuesday. He added that Cal Fire expects more funds to come to the Ventura County area, adding that “different strategies and tactics in place” to stop or control it.
“It is a case by case basis, and it is very liquid,” he said.
Why have forest fires in California is so destructive recently?
McLean explained that California has to do with a significant drought of the past five years, leaving a lot of dead vegetation in the whole country. Like other mediterranean climates, winter brings rain, which fills up the water reserves and helps new vegetation grow. California also had a record amount of rainfall in the spring of 2017. But the summer’s heat dried out that new growth, and, in conjunction with the autumn wind, means “a lot of the fuel is made for forest fires,” he said.
The Santa Ana winds are currently pushing the Thomas Brand.
McLean said there are 102 million or more dead trees in California — all potential fuel for forest fires blaze across the country.
“There is a long way to go. The fires we dealt with recently — such as Thomas Fire — are all indicators of what we have to deal with in California for the next few years,” he said, adding that many of these fires are wind-driven.
“Rains are not curable with a winter-it will take several years of winters to get the water back in the plants, and reservoirs.”
Furthermore, unlike tornadoes and hurricanes, fires, not really a season, McLean said. At this point, “there is quite a lot, but no fire season. It is the whole year through,” he said.
An effect on the wine and entertainment
Forest fires can also have an influence on the state of the wine industry from an economic point of view, wine experts earlier told Fox News. The California wine industry generates $57.6 billion in annual economic activity in the state and $114 billion in the country, according to statistics from the Wine Institute, a California-based public policy organization.
About 325,000 Californians are in the service of the wine industry in California. The industry also contributes $17.2 billion in wages and salaries annually in the state.
Furthermore, it generates $7.2 billion in tourist spending in California.
The wine industry can be affected by forest fires in California.
What’s more, the Hollywood Reporter reported Tuesday that HBO suspended its second season of “Westworld” by a 200-acre brush fire that broke out in the neighborhood where the show was filming.
Fox News’ Travis Fedschun contributed to this report.
Madeline Farber is a Reporter for Fox News. You can follow her on Twitter @MaddieFarberUDK.