Summer 2008 California wildfires

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Summer 2008 California wildfires
Summer 2008 California wildfires
The wildfires as seen from space on July 9, 2008.
Location Northern and Central California
Cost Over $92.38 million (2008 USD)[1]
Date(s) May 13, 2008 – September 10, 2008
Total wildfires Around 3,596[2]
Burned area 1,161,197 acres (469,920 ha)[3][4][5]
Ignition source Lightning strikes, heat, human-caused
Injuries (non-fatal) At least 92[6]
Fatalities 32[7]

The Summer 2008 California wildfires, collectively dubbed the Northern California Lightning Series by CAL FIRE, were a concentrated outbreak of wildfires during the late spring and summer of 2008. Over 3,596 individual fires were burning at the height of the period, burning large portions of forests and chaparral in California, injuring at least 34 individuals and killing 32.[8] The majority of the fires were started by lightning from dry thunderstorms on June 20,[9] although some earlier fires ignited during mid-May. International aid from Greece, Cyprus, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand helped fight the fires.[10]

The Basin/Indians fire in the Ventana Wilderness became the third largest wildfire in California's history based on size (until it was surpassed in size by the 2013 Rim Fire), and also the second costliest wildfire to extinguish in U.S. history.

Weather[edit]

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 0.67 inches (17 mm) of rain out of a normal of 5.18 inches (13 cm) from March to May.[9][11] As vegetation turned into bone-dry tinder in early June, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought for the first time in 17 years.[12] Dry thunderstorms and lightning, rarely seen on the California coastline in June, rolled onshore on the weekend of June 20–21. The storm unleashed 25,000 to 26,000 dry lightning strikes across Northern and Central California, igniting more than 2,000 fires.[13][14] The number of wildfires skyrocketed in the days after the thunderstorms and high daily daytime temperatures of over 120 °F (49 °C) dramatically increased the various fires' growth.[9] The same thunderstorms also caused fires in Oregon.[citation needed]

A heat wave commenced on July 7, with temperatures in inland locations, such as the Central Valley soaring above 115 °F (46 °C). Lake Berryessa recorded a high temperature of 126 °F (52 °C), prompting weather agencies like the National Weather Service to issue high fire danger warnings.[15] 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.[16][17]

Contributing factors[edit]

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."[18] The spring of 2008 not only broke the record for least inches of rainfall, at 0.17 of an inch, it represented less than one-third of the previous record low of 0.55 of an inch of rainfall in 1934.[18]

A record lack of rainfall, severely dry vegetation and uncharacteristically windy weather combined to create tinderbox conditions across Northern California.[18] In most areas of Northern California, the grasses and brush were as dry in June as they normally would be in October. Moisture content was less than 2%, compared with about 40% normally for this time of year, fire officials stated. In addition, "no one has seen a springtime like this with the winds," Juskie said.[18]

Fire history[edit]

The first of the wildfires was the Big Horn Fire, which ignited on May 13.[19] Three other minor wildfires ignited subsequently, but were extinguished by May 17. On May 20, the Avocado Fire ignited in Fresno County, only to be extinguished 2 days later.[20] On May 22, 2008, the human-caused Summit Fire broke out in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which became the first major fire.[21] On June 8, 2008, the next major fire to break out was the Indians Fire in the Ventana Wilderness of the Los Padres National Forest.[22] During the weekend of June 21–22, a dry low-pressure system crossed over California producing dry lightning and ignited nearly 2000 fires across 17 counties.

By July 5, 2008, 328 wildfires were burning, and those fires were only 81% contained.[23] For the first time since 1977, the military helped with ground-based firefighting, when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger dispatched 400 California National Guard troops to man fire lines.[4][24] He said the number of fires had stretched the state's fire-fighting resources 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".[25]

The lightning-caused Basin Complex Fire near Big Sur started on June 21 and burned 162,818 acres (658.90 km2), eventually torched the Ventana Wilderness until it merged lines with the Indians Fire. The Basin and Indians Fires consumed a combined 244,000 acres (990 km2) and was the third largest fire in California history. More than $120 million was spent to fight the fire, making it is the most expensive fire in California history, and the second most expensive in U.S. history, exceeded only by the Biscuit Fire in 2002.[26]

On July 5, 2008, California Governor Schwarzenegger commented that "I've been driving up and down the state of California going to all the various 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."[4]

The fires forced the evacuation of Big Sur prior to the July 4 holiday weekend.[27] Camp Pico Blanco was forced to evacuate the camp and diverted its Scouts to Boulder Creek Scout Reservation in Santa Cruz. The camp lost only one building, an outlying ranger's cabin.[28] Big Sur residents were permitted to return on July 9.[29] while further north, the town of Paradise in Butte County was evacuated when flames burned close.

The Gap Fire near Goleta in Santa Barbara County burned 8,357 acres (33.82 km2).[30] The fire was contained on July 29, after several weeks of activity.[31]

By July 11, 2008, it was reported that a total of 793,483 acres (3,211.11 km2) was burned, a total exceeding the initial estimate of 510,000 acres (2,100 km2) burned by the October 2007 California wildfires.[32] On July 12, 2008, the area burned reached 801,726 acres (3,244.47 km2), exceeding the estimated 800,000 acres (3,200 km2) burned by the 2003 California wildfires, making the Summer 2008 wildfires the greatest wildfire event in Californian history, in terms of burned area. On that date 20,274 personnel had been committed to fight the fires. Total resources included 467 hand crews, 1,503 engines, 423 water tenders, 291 bulldozers, 142 helicopters, 400 soldiers and numerous air tankers. The fire was responsible for the deaths of 23 individuals. [33][34]

On July 25, a blaze sparked by target shooting broke out in Mariposa County, in the Sierra Nevada foothills of central California.[35] By the following day, the Telegraph Fire had gone from 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) to 16,000 acres (65 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.[36] During August, wildfire activity began to diminish, although there were still hundreds of wildfires still burning. On August 29, wildfire activity had ended, although three more wildfires ignited after September 1,[37] beginning with the Gladding Fire.[38] On September 10, the Colony Fire was 100% contained, ending the last of the Summer 2008 California wildfires.[39]

Air quality[edit]

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.[40][41] From June 21–27, much of Northern California was covered in a thick blanket of smoke, which reduced visibility and turned the sky yellow and the moon red.[9][41][42][43] Some areas endured record levels of air pollution, along with hazardous concentrations of particulate matter.[40] 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.[44] In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District urged the elderly and people with respiratory problems to stay indoors.[9] 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 100 miles (161 km)-Western States Endurance Run, the first in the race's 31-year history.[40] Air quality began to improve on June 28,[40] followed by decreased smoke and improved visibility a day later.[45] 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.[46] However, air quality in Oregon degraded as plumes of smoke drifted northward instead of concentrating in the Central Valley.[47]

Hazy conditions returned on July 7, along with high temperatures over 100 °F (38 °C) 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.[15][48] 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.[15][49] Smoky conditions continued into late August, when most of the wildfires were extinguished. The smoke from the fires finally began to disperse on September 10, after the last of the wildfires was fully contained.

Carson City/Minden, Nevada area pictures ot the sky looking east on July 11, 2008 11 am.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_cur_search_results?search=Search&search=2008
  2. ^ http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_stats?year=2008
  3. ^ "All statewide fires from 6/22/08 to 8/11/08" (PDF). California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. 
  4. ^ a b c Saillant, Catherine; Bailey, Eric (2008-07-02). "Push is on to stall Goleta fire before winds; more evacuations at Big Sur". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  5. ^ "Wildland Fire Information". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  6. ^ http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_archived?archive_year=2008
  7. ^ http://www.fire.ca.gov/fire_protection/downloads/siege/2008/2008FireSiege_full-book_r6.pdf
  8. ^ http://www.fire.ca.gov/fire_protection/downloads/siege/2008/2008FireSiege_full-book_r6.pdf
  9. ^ a b c d e Bulwa, Demian (2008-06-23). "Firefighters battling hundreds of blazes". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  10. ^ Riechmann, Deb (2008-07-17). "Bush surveys record-breaking California wildfires". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  11. ^ Larson, Elizabeth (2008-06-16). "Dry weather, spring freeze cost local farmers millions". Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  12. ^ Zito, Kelly; Yi, Matthew (2008-06-05). "Governor declares drought in California". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  13. ^ Bowman, Chris (2008-06-29). "Fire season may get worse". Sacramento Bee. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  14. ^ Wohlsen, Marcus (2008-06-24). "Lightning storm sparks 800 plus fires in California". MeteoGroup. Archived from the original on 2011-05-14. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  15. ^ a b c Bulwa, Demian (2008-07-07). "Hot weather brings smog, fire warnings". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  16. ^ Coté, John (2008-07-08). "Inland temperatures heading into record territory". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  17. ^ May, Meredith; Talyor, Michael (2008-07-08). "Big Sur fire crews worry about hotter weather". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  18. ^ a b c d Bailey, Eric (June 24, 2008). "Lightning takes Northern California fires from bad to worse". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  19. ^ http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_details_info?incident_id=257
  20. ^ http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_details_info?incident_id=262
  21. ^ "Homes burn as wildfire rages in Santa Cruz Mountains". San Jose Mercury-News. Retrieved 2008-08-02. 
  22. ^ "US Forest Service Fire Information". Incident Information System. Retrieved 2008-08-02. 
  23. ^ Moran, Nancy; Brandt, Nadja (2008-07-05). "California's Wildfires Have Scorched 527,000 acres". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  24. ^ "Military joining fire battles up, down California". MSNBC. 2008-07-02. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  25. ^ Abdollah, Tami (2008-07-05). "'Critical day' for growing Goleta fire; Big Sur blaze only 5% contained". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2011-05-14. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  26. ^ "Basin Complex Fire (Reposted)". Western Institute for Study of the Environment. W.I.S.E. Fire Tracking. July 25, 2008. Retrieved June 22, 2011. 
  27. ^ Fehd, Amanda (July 3, 2008). "Big Sur evacuated as massive wildfire spreads". SignOnSanDiego.com. Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  28. ^ "Boy Scout Camp Damaged in Basin Creek Complex Fire". Salinas, California: Monterey Bay Area Council, Boy Scouts of America. July 23, 2008. Retrieved November 11, 2009. 
  29. ^ Thompson, Don (2008-07-09). "Thousands evacuate as flames near Paradise, Calif.". Associated Press. 
  30. ^ Jablon, Rovert (2008-07-05). "California wildfires strain state's resources". Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  31. ^ "9,443 acres (38.21 km2) Goleta wildfire fully containment". San Diego Union-Tribune. 2008-07-29. 
  32. ^ Hanley, Christine; Janet Wilson and Mitchell Landsberg (October 24, 2007). "1,155 homes—and counting". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  33. ^ "Big Sur Evacuated as Wildfires Race to the California Coast". Environment News Service. July 2, 2008. Retrieved July 2, 2008. 
  34. ^ Johnson, Bill (July 4, 2008). "California Continues To Burn". Mymotherlode. Retrieved July 4, 2008. 
  35. ^ "2,000 homes threatened by 'erratic' wildfire near Yosemite - CNN.com". CNN. 2008-07-27. Retrieved 2010-05-24. 
  36. ^ Burke, Garance (July 29, 2008). "Wildfire threatens homes and vacations in Yosemite". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2011-05-14. 
  37. ^ http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_archived?archive_year=2008
  38. ^ http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_details_info?incident_id=311
  39. ^ http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_details_info?incident_id=320
  40. ^ a b c d "Wildfires' smoke, ash chokes Northern Californians". CNN. Associated Press. 2008-06-28. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  41. ^ a b Bulwa, Demian (2008-06-27). "Myriad wildfires pollute air, pose health risks and keep on spreading". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  42. ^ "Editorial: An early fire season". San Francisco Chronicle. 2008-06-25. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  43. ^ Jackson, Maddalena (2008-06-25). "Smoky haze raises health risk in Valley". Sacramento Bee. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  44. ^ Rubenstein, Steve (2008-06-26). "Smoke from Lake County fire a danger to some". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  45. ^ Milbourn, Todd (2008-06-30). "Smoke clears slightly, but air is still bad". Sacramento Bee. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  46. ^ Jackson, Maddalena (2008-07-01). "Delta breeze clears the air in Sacramento Valley". Sacramento Bee. Archived from the original on July 8, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  47. ^ Crombie, Noelle (2008-07-04). "Smoke from California wildfires drifts into Oregon". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  48. ^ Lofing, Niesha (2008-07-07). "Governor activates emergency plan in response to heat wave". Sacramento Bee. Archived from the original on August 1, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  49. ^ Tucker, Jill (2008-07-10). "Heat wave eases thanks to onshore breeze". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-07-10.