Firefighters battle string of wildfires in California amid high temperatures, lower humidity and strong winds

Emergency crew members work to restore electricity lines at the site where wildfires broke out in Gorman,
Photo credit: Xinhua

Firefighters are continuing to battle a string of wildfires across the western U.S. state of California on Monday amid high temperatures, lower humidity and strong winds, Xinhua reports. 

At least 11 wildfires broke out over the weekend in the state and have consumed tens of thousands of acres of land, according to the data of current emergency incidents on the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection website.

The largest blaze, dubbed the Post Fire, started Saturday afternoon in Gorman, about 100 km north of Los Angeles, and has charred over 15,600 acres (about 63.1 square km) in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, with only 8 percent contained as of Monday morning.

It's now the largest wildfire in California so far this year, surpassing the size of the Corral Fire, which burned around 14,000 acres (about 56.7 square km) in Northern California's San Joaquin County earlier this month.

At least 1,200 people have been forced to evacuate from the Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area, a popular motorcycle, four-wheel drive, and all-terrain vehicle use area, due to the fast-moving Post Fire.

Over 1,100 firefighters, supported by 7 helicopters and 114 engines, are helping battle the blaze.

"Crews are working to establish perimeter fire lines around the fire's edges. Aircraft are being utilized to halt the fire's forward progress but are facing challenges due to limited visibility," said the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in a Monday update on its website.

"Firefighters will continue working overnight to reinforce the existing perimeter on the fire's east side, as the wind is expected to push the fire further south towards Pyramid Lake," the agency added.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District said on Monday that an air quality alert is still in effect due to the Post Fire, urging residents in the area impacted by smoke to limit their exposure by remaining indoors or seeking alternate shelter.

More than 52,000 people have died prematurely in California over a decade due to pollution from wildfires, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and published earlier this month.

The Post Fire is one of the four wildfires raging in Southern California. Another major wildfire, named the Hesperia Fire, started on Saturday and has exploded in size to over 1,130 acres (about 4.6 square km), with 30 percent contained, in San Bernardino County.

Two other smaller wildfires in the region, the Lisa Fire and the Max Fire, have burned 867 acres (about 3.5 square km) and 338 acres (about 1.37 square km), respectively, so far.

The U.S. National Weather Service in Los Angeles warned dangerous fire weather conditions through Monday while the National Weather Service in Sacramento issued a red flag warning that will be in effect through early Tuesday morning across the state's Central Valley and adjacent foothills.

Such early-season fires are feeding primarily on heat-dried grasses -- the growth of which exploded during two back-to-back wet winters, Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with UCLA, was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times, the biggest newspaper on the U.S. West Coast. He warned that more dangerous fires "could still be in store later this year."

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection warned in its 2024 Fire Year Outlook earlier this year that with new vegetation growth, dryness may increase from mid-May to June, potentially leading to more small fires, with the chance of larger fires depending on wind conditions.

While there are no immediate signs of drought or dryness, this could change as temperatures rise and conditions dry out. Additionally, the annual Southwest Monsoon season might start late, impacting lightning-related fire risk in northern California later in the year, the outlook added.

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