CalFire reported 18 major wildfires as of noon on July 3, including the “County Fire,” which, in total, had already burned 72,500 acres and were less than 15 percent contained as of Tuesday.
California Forestry and Department of Fire Protection (CalFire) reported that the largest named wildfire burning in California is the County Fire, which has already consumed over 70,000 acres in the areas east of Lake Berryessa in Yolo and Napa Counties. The County Fire is consuming territory at a rate of 1,000 acres an hour, the equivalent of over 12 football fields a minute.
The County Fire is only 5 percent contained and is at risk of merging with the 15,000-acre Pawnee Fire burning in Lake County to the north, which firefighters had reported as about 85 percent contained. To put the County and Pawnee combined 85,000-acre wildfires in perspective, the 20th-largest fire in the state’s history was the Campbell Fire, which burned 125,892 acres in 1990.
With Northern California temperatures as much as 18 degrees above normal, the National Weather Service (NWS) has alerted all state fire departments of extremely dry conditions that could lead to rapid or dramatic increases in wildfire activity.
The NWS also issued a public Red Flag Warning due to low relative humidity, strong winds, dry fuels, and the possibility of dry lightning strikes. As the highest weather alert level, a Red Flag means that extreme fire behavior may occur within 24 hours and “a simple spark can cause a major wildfire.”
CalFire is especially concerned about the use of fireworks on the Fourth of July, including illegal explosives such as sky rockets, bottle rockets, and firecrackers. Although 300 cities allow so-called “Safe and Sane” fireworks, use of any fireworks outside legal communities carry fines up to $50,000 and up to one year in jail. Under California law, parents are liable for any damage or injuries caused by their children using fireworks.
CalFire’s website reveals that there have already been 2,626 reported wildfires this year through July 1, up about 11 percent over the same period in 2017. In addition, the U.S. National Forest Service reported another 497 fires in 2018.
The height of the fire season usually comes late in the year. In addition to the 41 residents and two firefighters that died from California wildfires last year, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones reported that 2017’s October to December “Fire Siege” caused $11.79 billion in losses, destroying more than 32,000 homes, 4,300 businesses, and more than 8,200 vehicles and equipment.
The U.S. National Forest Service tweeted that 12 new large fires have erupted across the southwestern United States since Friday. The Forrest Service has 10,200 firefighters and support staff assigned to wildfire duty.