Police watch as a massive wildfire burns over Lake Oroville in California

Law enforcement officers watch as the Thompson Fire burns over Lake Oroville in Oroville, California on July 2, 2024.

(Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

Thousands Evacuated Amid Northern California Wildfire and Heatwave

"It cannot be stressed enough that this is an exceptionally dangerous and lethal situation," the National Weather Service warned.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in a northern county where a major wildfire has burned thousands of acres and forced the evacuation of thousands of residents amid near-record heat throughout much of the Golden State fueled by human-caused global heating.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) said shortly after noon local time Wednesday that the Thompson Fire, which began Tuesday morning in Butte County, had burned 3,568 acres with no containment in and around the city of Oroville, home to more than 20,000 people.

Citing an "imminent threat to life," Newsom, a Democrat, issued an emergency declaration and said that "we are using every available tool to tackle this fire and will continue to work closely with our local and federal partners to support impacted communities."

CAL FIRE said that more than 1,400 firefighters using 199 engines, 46 dozers, eight helicopters, and other equipment are battling the blaze. More than 28,000 Oroville area residents have been evacuated.

Red flag conditions are being exacerbated by low humidity and near-record temperatures throughout California. Oroville is expected to hit a high of 110°F on Wednesday, with daytime highs forecast to remain in the 110s through the holiday weekend. Dozens of daily, monthly, and all-time records could be broken throughout the state.

"It cannot be stressed enough that this is an exceptionally dangerous and lethal situation," the National Weather Service's (NWS) San Francisco Bay Area branch cautioned as it extended the red flag warning through Friday while preparing the public for the possibility of further extensions.

Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said during a video briefing, "I'm not so sure that really any of us will have seen this many days at this sustained level of heat, both daytime and most importantly nighttime heat."

Commenting on the wildfire and heatwave, Fossil Free Media director Jamie Henn said on social media that "we need the California Legislature to pass their climate superfund bill NOW to #MakePollutersPay for these fossil-fueled disasters."

Introduced in April by California state Sen. Caroline Menjivar (D-20) but shelved the following month, S.B. 1497—the Polluters Pay Climate Cost Recovery Act—would require major fossil fuel producers to pay for their historic carbon emissions.

The NWS said that as of Wednesday, more than 110 million people across the United States were facing either a heat advisory, watch, or warning. So far, 2024 has been the hottest year on record. Climate Central, a nonprofit news organization focusing on the worsening planetary emergency, said climate change has made the current California heatwave at least five times likelier.

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