30,000 residents flee spectacular forest fire, state of emergency declared – Libération

30,000 residents flee spectacular forest fire, state of emergency declared – Libération
30,000 residents flee spectacular forest fire, state of emergency declared – Libération

In the north of the American state, a fire has already ravaged 1,400 hectares this Thursday, July 4, driven by a historic drought and record temperatures.

California is once again plunged into the furnace. While the American West is hit by an exceptionally hot wave “dangerous”which is likely to be particularly long and intense with temperatures expected at 46°C, a violent fire is raging this Wednesday, July 4 in the north of the state.

Homes devoured by flames, charred trees, thousands of evacuations and plumes of toxic smoke… More than 1,400 hectares of grasslands and forest have already been consumed by the fire nicknamed Thompson, since Tuesday near Oroville, where authorities have asked nearly 30,000 people to leave the area, according to local media outlet Oroville Mercury-Register.

Firefighters are battling to protect burning homes, while eight helicopters and numerous bomber planes are tackling the flames. The 1,400 firefighters are facing very difficult conditions, local fire chief Garrett Sjolund warned. Four of them were injured. “The brush is dry, and as you can see, any gust of wind will push the fire very quickly.”explained Garrett Sjolund.

The blaze is just a few dozen miles from Paradise, a town that was hit in 2018 by the deadliest wildfire in California history, with 85 deaths. Many Oroville residents are survivors of that fire.

Emergency state

California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency so he can mobilize more resources. “As we enter the most challenging months of wildfire season, the state is better prepared than ever to protect at-risk communities with new tools, new technologies and new resources.”he detailed. The governor also cites “continuous high temperatures throughout the day and night, dry conditions and strong winds” which increase the intensity and help the fire spread.

Despite having enjoyed very wet winters in the last two years, the American West has been in the grip of drought for about twenty years. The summer of 2024 is already shaping up to be very hot and dry. However, the recent excess precipitation has favored vegetation, which, once dried out, turns into fuel for the flames.

Added to this context is a very special week in the United States, that of the national holiday of July 4, traditionally celebrated by Americans with their own fireworks – a nightmare for firefighters. With already four fires in Butte County, “It’s a bad season for fires”said its sheriff, Kory Honea. “The last thing we want is for someone who bought fireworks next door to go do something stupid. Don’t be stupid.”he urged. So the city of Oroville has temporarily banned fireworks.

The fire is raging as a heatwave hits the region, with record temperatures expected in the coming days. “Dangerous heatwaves, likely to break records, are forecast for this July 4 weekend in the West”but also “from the southern plains to the center-east” of the country, wrote the US National Weather Service (NWS). “Dozens of records are possible, showing the rarity of such a heat wave in early July”adds the meteorological institute, stressing that the duration of this heatwave, which could extend until next week, is “worrying”.

According to CNN, the San Francisco Weather Service also warned that“An event of this magnitude, scale and longevity will likely rival anything we’ve seen in the last 18 years in inland areas.”Nearly 150 million residents of 21 states are affected by various levels of heatwave alerts across the fifty American states.

Last year was the hottest year on record globally, and according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2024 has a 50% chance of breaking that record. Repeated heat waves are a marker of global warming linked to climate change, scientists insist.

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