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California is burning: even its ancient Sequoia forests risk extermination

California wildfires continue raging as drought and high temperatures see no rest, compelling authorities to declare a state of emergency in four counties.

Four years of drought in California and record high temperatures during the summer have been blamed for the proliferation of wildfires such as the Valley Fire. The blaze erupted on Saturday the 12th of September, 80 kilometres west of California’s state capital, Sacramento. It spread at a ferocious pace and by Sunday night had expanded over 20,000 hectares, engulfing towns in Lake County such as Middletown. By the evening of Tuesday the 15th of September it had reached 27,000 hectares in size and caused the evacuation of 13,000 people.

The Governor of the US state of California, Jerry Brown, declared a state of emergency in Lake and Napa counties on the 13th of September due to wildfires that have destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands of residents to evacuate. On Friday the 11th of September a state of emergency had already been announced in Amador and Calaveras counties.

 

Cal Fire, the agency responsible for fire protection in California, declared that the Valley Fire’s level of containment is at one third. It has also confirmed reports that the Valley Fire has caused one death, as well as injuring four out of the over 2,500 firefighters involved in fighting it.

 


 

Resources are being stretched thin as northern California is dealing with multiple wildfires simultaneously. The Butte Fire broke out on Wednesday the 9th of September and 40% of it has been contained thanks to the mobilisation of 4,000 firefighters. Around 30,000 hectares have been burnt, 10,000 people have been displaced and over 400 buildings have been destroyed.

 

Yet this dwarfs in comparison to the largest wildfire currently engulfing the state. The Rough Fire began on the 31st of July, set off by a strike of lightning, and has affected around 55,000 hectares in the south of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. 3,000 firefighters have managed to contain only a third of the blaze, which has also caused the evacuation of Kings Canyon National Park. Fears have grown that the flames will engulf the park’s Giant Sequoia Trees, thought to be between 1,800 and 2,700 years old.

 

 

California wildfires cost the state $200 million (180 million euros) in the month of July alone.

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