The thousands of evacuees in northern California by the fire that has already razed 11,500 acres (4,657 hectares) in Lake County portend that the current fire season is even worse than last year, the most disastrous in history of the Golden State.
With a vegetation that begins to dry, forecasts of hot temperatures for the summer and the intensity of the Santa Ana winds, the forecasts about the fire season for this year are not very encouraging.
“It is very difficult to predict that this year will be more intense than last year, but we already have more than 200 fires reported that last year in these same dates, the future does not look good,” Scott McLean, spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE).
According to figures from this entity, 2,357 fires had been reported in the state until June 24. 32,599 acres (13,192 hectares) were consumed by these fires.
The figures already exceed the average that was presented last year to this date. 2,122 fires were suppressed and 29,252 acres (11,837 hectares) consumed by the flames.
The difference of more than 3,000 acres burned this year could grow rapidly if the Pawnee fire in Lake County, north of San Francisco, which has already leveled more than 11,500 acres and 22 structures, and threatens another 600, is not contained. .
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency on Monday for the affected area, allocating state resources that include employees, supplies and facilities.
The efforts of the authorities are focused on avoiding human losses. In 2017, 44 people died as a result of the fires and more than 10 billion dollars in property damage were recorded.
Not to mention the more than two dozen victims of the landslides last January in the Montecitos sector, a tragedy that occurred in the same area where the Thomas fire hit, the largest in California’s history that burned 281,893 acres of land. Santa Barbara and Ventura hills.
In the face of imminent risk, the California Senate approved a comprehensive package of bills to help counteract fire emergencies.
“Man-made climate change has forced a new unfortunate reality in us, one that has brought an increasing number of deadly natural disasters,” said California pro-tempore Senate President Toni Atkins.
The projects ask for funds to clean up debris, as well as to clear obstacles between owners of private land, the state and even the federal government.
Companies that provide public services, and especially power companies, should adopt plans to mitigate fire risks and raise their infrastructure, warn two of the proposals.
It is also intended to unify the emergency warning systems in order to perform the evacuations on time.
Lawmakers insist on caring for owners and have proposed several reforms for insurers. Senator Ricardo Lara tries to prohibit insurance companies from canceling or not renewing an owner’s policy for one year if they live in a county with a declared State of Emergency.
“The lethal fires of North Bay and Ventura exposed the vulnerability of the owners, even if their homes survived the flames,” said Lara.
Concerns about the subsequent damage caused by a fire even reached the Attorney General of California, Xavier Becerra, who warned the public about the protections that residents of places that have been declared in a State of Emergency have.
“The law protects people affected by an emergency against the illegal increase of prices in housing, gas, food and other essential supplies,” said Becerra.
The spokesman of CAL FIRE, who has been dealing with fires in California since the 1960s, warned that the season and, therefore, the risk, are just beginning.
“The October and December seasons are still missing, which were the most catastrophic months last year, it’s very worrying,” insists McLean.
In the midst of the unpleasant panorama, and with the Lake County fire contained in only 5%, authorities like Mclean remember that education in the community can make the difference between life and death.
“We must help avoid fires, communicate any sign of fire and be alert to any emergency signal, we must be warned,” he warned.