With climate change an underlying factor, nearly two dozen wildfires were burning throughout Northern California as of Thursday, and many say the situation could worsen significantly before it gets better—with fire officials expressing fears that some of the already-destructive individual blazes could merge into a larger fire.
On Thursday, dry and windy conditions were expected to continue throughout the state, leading authorities concerned that the "aggressive" fires will spread further by the weekend. Wind gusts were expected to reach 60 miles per hour on Friday, almost as fast as they had been last weekend when the fires started to spread rapidly throughout the region.
"Hotter summers yield more fuel for fires and stronger winds to fan the flames. And this summer was California's hottest on record."—Los Angeles Times editorial board
President Donald Trump declared the fires a federal disaster on Tuesday—after 100,000 acres had burned, causing 13 confirmed deaths and leaving more than a 100 people missing. Since then, the number of destroyed homes and buildings has reached 3,500, 23 people have been confirmed killed, and more than 500 are missing. Nearly 200,000 acres of land have been scorched in both suburban communities like Santa Rosa and rural areas where wildfires are usually contained.
Although the federal disaster declaration makes funding available to state and local officials to fight the fires, as an editorial in the Los Angeles Times noted on Thursday, the Trump administration's views on preventing more wildfires has been lacking.
Authorities say strong winds, dry conditions, and new plant growth resulting from California's rainy winter last year all contributed to the wildfires' ability to spread rapidly into heavily populated areas.
"All of those factors are exacerbated by the warming world," the Times editorial board wrote. "Hotter summers yield more fuel for fires and stronger winds to fan the flames. And this summer was California's hottest on record, a milestone dramatically illustrated when San Francisco hit 106 degrees on Sept. 1 during a statewide heat wave."
As the paper reported, Gov. Jerry Brown addressed the reality of wildfires in California due to climate change in a press conference on Wednesday.
"These kinds of catastrophes have happened and they'll continue to happen," he said. "That's the way it is with a warming climate, dry weather, and reducing moisture."
"California is fortunate to have a governor who understands the perils of ignoring climate change and is aggressively pushing policies to mitigate its future harm," wrote the editorial board. "Unfortunately, that puts him at odds with a head-in-the-sand president who blithely disregards the obvious connection between the warming climate and the multiple federal disaster areas he's been forced to declare in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and now, California."