Summer 2008 California wildfires

Summer 2008 California wildfires

Infobox wildfire
title= 2008 California wildfires

caption= The wildfires as seen from space.
location= California
date= June 6, 2008 - ongoing
source= Lightning, human caused
acres= convert|2589930|acre|km2|0 [] Cite web|url=|title=Push is on to stall Goleta fire before winds; more evacuations at Big Sur|first=Catherine|last=Saillant|coauthor=Bailey, Eric|publisher="Los Angeles Times"|date=2008-07-02|accessdate=2008-07-07] [cite web|title=Wildland Fire Information|url=|publisher=CAL FIRE|accessdate=2008-07-07]

The California wildfires of 2008 (collectively dubbed the Northern California Lightning Series by CAL FIRE) are ongoing wildfires during Summer 2008, with over 2,700 individual fires (at the series' height), affecting large portions of forests and chaparral in California. The majority of the fires were started by lightning from dry thunderstorms on June 20,Cite web|title=Firefighters battling hundreds of blazes|url=|publisher="San Francisco Chronicle"|date=2008-06-23|accessdate=2008-07-07|first=Demian|last=Bulwa] although some earlier fires were started on June 6. International aid from Greece, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Mexico and New Zealand was present to help fight the fires.Cite web|title=hBush surveys record-breaking California wildfires|url=|publisher=Yahoo|first=DEB|last=RIECHMANN|date=2008-07-17|accessdate=2008-07-17]


The fires broke out after three years of below-normal rainfall dehydrated much of California's forests and woodlands, making them prone to wildfires. Spring 2008 for California was the driest on record for many locations; for example, San Francisco registered only Convert|0.007|in|cm|0 of rain out of a normal of Convert|6.18|in|cm|0 from March to May. [Cite web|title=Dry weather, spring freeze cost local farmers millions|url=|first=Elizabeth|last=Larson|date=2008-06-16|accessdate=2008-07-07] As vegetation turned into bone-dry tinder in early June, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought for the first time in over a century. [Cite web|title=Governor declares drought in California|url=|publisher="San Francisco Chronicle"|first=Kelly|last=Zito|coauthors=Yi, Matthew|date=2008-06-05|accessdate=2008-07-07] Dry thunderstorms and lightning, rarely seen on the California coastline in June, rolled onshore on the weekend of June 20 - June 21. The storm unleashed 5,000 to 6,000 dry lightning strikes across Northern and Central California, igniting more than 800 fires. [Cite web|title=Fire season may get worse|url=|publisher=Sacramento Bee|date=2008-06-29|accessdate=2008-07-07|first=Chris|last=Bowman] [Cite web|title=Lightning storm sparks 800 plus fires in California|url=|publisher=MeteoGroup|accessdate=2008-07-07|date=2008-06-24|first=Marcus |last=Wohlsen] The same thunderstorms also caused fires in Oregon. [Cite web|title=Crews sent to wildfires|url=|publisher="MyEagleNews"|date=2008-06-25|accessdate=2008-07-07] High daytime temperatures facilitated the spread of the fires and the number of wildfires skyrocketed in the days after the thunderstorm.

A heat wave commenced on July 7, with temperatures in inland locations, such as the Central Valley soaring above Convert|100|F|C|lk=on|abbr=on|0. Lake Berryessa recorded a high temperature of Convert|109|F|C|abbr=on|0, prompting weather agencies like the National Weather Service to issue high fire danger warnings.cite web|title=Hot weather brings smog, fire warnings|url=|publisher="San Francisco Chronicle"|date=2008-07-07|accessdate=2008-07-08|first=Demian|last=Bulwa] These near to record-breaking temperatures concerned many firefighters, who feared that the high heat, low humidity, and high-elevation winds could make firefighting more strenuous. [cite web|title=Inland temperatures heading into record territory|url=|publisher="San Francisco Chronicle"|date=2008-07-08|accessdate=2008-07-08|first=John|last=Coté] [Cite web|title=Big Sur fire crews worry about hotter weather|url=|publisher="San Francisco Chronicle"|date=2008-07-08|accessdate=2008-07-08|coauthors=Talyor, Michael|first=Meredith|last=May]

Contributing Factors

John Juskie, a National Weather Service science officer, was quoted in June 2008 in the Los Angeles Times stating "in historic terms, we're at record dry levels." In fact, the spring of 2008 not only broke the record, set in 1934 for least inches of rainfall; at 0.17 of an inch, it represented "less than one-third" of the previous record low of 0.54 of an inch of rainfall in 1934.

In most areas of north California, the grasses and brush were as dry in June as they normally would be in October. Moisture content is less than 5%, compared with about 20% normally for this time of year, fire officials stated. In addition, "no one has seen a springtime like this with the winds,"Juskie saidcite news
title=Lightning takes Northern California fires from bad to worse
author = Eric Bailey
publisher= Los Angeles Times
date=June 24 2008|accessdate=2008-07-22

Fire history

The first major fire was the Summit Fire, which started May 22, 2008 as a human-caused fire. [Cite web|url=|title=Homes burn as wildfire rages in Santa Cruz Mountains|publisher=San Jose Mercury-News|accessdate=2008-08-02] The next major fire to start was the Indians Fire on June 6, 2008. [ Cite web|url=|title=US Forest Service Fire Information|accessdate=2008-08-02] During the weekend of June 21-22, a dry low-pressure system crossed through California producing dry lightning and igniting nearly 2000 fires across 17 counties.

As of July 5, 2008, 328 fires continued to burn and 81% of the original fires have been contained. [Cite web|url=|title=California's Wildfires Have Scorched 527,000 Acres|publisher=Bloomberg|first=Nancy|last=Moran|coauthor=Brandt, Nadja|accessdate=2008-07-07|date=2008-07-05] For the first time since 1977, the military helped with ground-based firefighting, as California National Guard troops deployed to fire lines. [Cite web|url=|title=Military joining fire battles up, down California|publisher=MSNBC|date=2008-07-02|accessdate=2008-07-07] Two major fires in coastal regions are the Basin Complex Fire burning in Big Sur in redwoods and other forested areas in northern California which has burned 68,712 acres, and the Gap Fire burning in old chaparral near Goleta, in Santa Barbara County, has burned 8,357 acres (2,400 hectares). [cite web|last=Jablon|first=Rovert|title=California wildfires strain state's resources|url=|date=2008-07-05|accessdate=2008-07-05] The latter fire was contained on July 29, after several weeks of activity. ["San Diego Union-Tribue" July 29, 2008]

As of July 11, 2008, it was reported that a total of convert|793483|acre|km2 had burned, a total exceeding the estimated convert|500000|acre|km2 burned in the California Wildfires of 2007.cite news
title=1,155 homes -- and counting
author = Christine Hanley, Janet Wilson and Mitchell Landsberg | publisher= Los Angeles Times
date=October 24 2007|accessdate=2007-10-24
] On July 12, 2008, the area burned reached convert|801726|acre|km2, exceeding the estimated convert|800000|acre|km2 burned during the series of 2003 California wildfires making those wildfires in 2008 the greatest wildfire in California history by burned area. As of this date, 20,274 personnel were committed to these fires. Total resources included 467 hand crews, 1,503 engines, 423 water tenders, 291 bulldozers, 142 helicopters, 400 soldiers and numerous air tankers. It has been characterized by a higher loss of life with 23 fatalities. cite news
title=Big Sur Evacuated as Wildfires Race to the California Coast
url =
accessdate = 2008-07-02 | date = 2008-07-02 | publisher = Environment News Service
] cite news
title=California Continues To Burn
accessdate = 2008-07-04
date = 2008-07-04
first = Bill | last = Johnson | publisher = Mymotherlode

Speaking on July 5, 2008, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commented that "I've been driving up and down the state of California going to all the various different fires, and you can imagine, this state is very prepared for fire, but when you wake up one morning and have 500 fires across the state, it was a real shock to me... only to find the next morning there were 1,000 fires, and the next morning 1,400 fires, and then 1,700 fires igniting over 14 days."

Schwarzenegger, who ordered 400 California National Guard troops this week to help the firefighting efforts, said the number of fires had stretched the state thin. "One never has resources for 1,700 fires. Who has the resources for that?" Schwarzenegger said, adding "Something is happening, clearly. There's more need for resources than ever before... it's fire season all year round". [Cite web|title='Critical day' for growing Goleta fire; Big Sur blaze only 5% contained|url=|publisher="Los Angeles Times"|date=2008-07-05|first=Tami|last=Abdollah|accessdate=2008-07-07]

The fires forced the evacuation of Big Sur prior to the July 4 holiday weekend. [cite news | url= | title=Big Sur evacuated as massive wildfire spreads | | publisher=AP | author=Fehd, Amanda | date=July 32008 | accessdate=2008-07-07] On July 9, the town of Paradise was evacuated as flames got closer. Meanwhile, residents of Big Sur were permitted to return. [ [ Thousands evacuate as flames near Paradise, Calif.] By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer, 7/9/08. ]

On July 25, a blaze sparked by target shooting broke out in Mariposa County, in the Sierra Nevada foothills of central California. [] By the following day, the Telegraph Fire had gone from convert|1000|acre|km2 to convert|16000|acre|km2, and within days had destroyed 21 homes in the community of Midpines. Residents were evacuated from approximately 300 homes that were immediately threatened, with an additional 4,000 homes placed on standby for evacuation in Midpines, Greeley Hill, and Coulterville. [GARANCE BURKE, Wildfire threatens homes and vacations in Yosemite," Associated Press, July 29, 2008]

Air quality

Air quality in northern and central California, especially in the Central Valley from Bakersfield to Redding, deteriorated as a result of smoke from the wildfires.cite news|title= Wildfires' smoke, ash chokes Northern Californians| url=|accessdate=2008-07-07|date=2008-06-28|author=Associated Press|publisher=CNN] cite web|title=Myriad wildfires pollute air, pose health risks and keep on spreading|url=|publisher="San Francisco Chronicle"|date=2008-06-27|accessdate=2008-07-07|first=Demian|last=Bulwa] From June 21 to June 27, much of Northern California was covered in a thick blanket of smoke, which reduced visibility and turned the sky yellow. [Cite web|title=Editorial: An early fire season|url=|publisher="San Francisco Chronicle"|date=2008-06-25|accessdate=2008-07-07] [Cite web|title=Smoky haze raises health risk in Valley|url=|publisher="Sacramento Bee"|first=Maddalena|last=Jackson|date=2008-06-25|accessdate=2008-07-07] Some areas endured record levels of air pollution, along with hazardous concentrations of particulate matter. These smoky and hazy conditions prompted health officials to issue air quality advisories and warnings, as particulate matter reached unhealthy levels in the North Bay on June 25. [Cite web|title=Smoke from Lake County fire a danger to some|url=|publisher="San Francisco Chronicle"|date=2008-06-26|accessdate=2008-07-07|first=Steve|last=Rubenstein] In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District urged the elderly and people with respiratory problems to stay indoors. In spite of the warnings, health officials noted a jump in the number of people with eye and throat irritation. The bad air quality also forced the cancellation of the Convert|100|mi|km|0-Western States Endurance Run, the first in the race's 31-year history. Air quality began to improve on June 28, followed by decreased smoke and improved visibility a day later. [Cite web|title=Smoke clears slightly, but air is still bad|url=|publisher="Sacramento Bee"|date=2008-06-30|accessdate=2008-07-07|first=Todd|last=Milbourn] By June 30, residents in the Sacramento Valley saw blue skies and good air quality, as a result of onshore winds and the Delta breezes. [Cite web|title=Delta breeze clears the air in Sacramento Valley|url=|publisher="Sacramento Bee"|date=2008-07-01|accessdate=2008-07-07|first=Maddalena|last=Jackson] However, air quality in Oregon degraded as plumes of smoke drifted northward instead of concentrating in the Central Valley. [Cite web|title=Smoke from California wildfires drifts into Oregon|url=|publisher="The Oregonian"|first=Noelle|last=Crombie|accessdate=2008-07-07|date=2008-07-04]

Hazy conditions returned on July 7, along with high temperatures over Convert|100|F|C|abbr=on in the Central Valley. The heat and smoke combined forced public health officials and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to issue Spare the Air advisories and an emergency plan for heat waves, respectively. [Cite web|title=Governor activates emergency plan in response to heat wave|url=|publisher="Sacramento Bee"|date=2008-07-07|accessdate=2008-07-07|first=Niesha|last=Lofing] Air quality districts issued another Spare the Air day for July 8, July 9, and July 10, as calm wind conditions in Northern California failed to blow away the smoke from the wildfires. [Cite web|title=Heat wave eases thanks to onshore breeze|url=|publisher="San Francisco Chronicle"|accessdate=2008-07-10|date=2008-07-10|first=Jill|last=Tucker]

ee also

*October 2007 California wildfires


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