More than 100,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes in California, in the grip of some of the worst fires in its history, and entire areas were covered in thick clouds of smoke on Friday.
Fires started by tens of thousands of lightning bolts, fueled by record-breaking heat and low humidity, have already claimed the lives of at least five people, according to local authorities.
One of the biggest blazes, the LNU Lightning Complex, alone blasted nearly 90,000 hectares in smoke on Friday morning.
In particular, it threatened the vines of Napa and Sonoma counties, which had already been exposed to such fires in recent years.
And the risks of infection with the new coronavirus pushed some of the 119,000 people evacuated to find refuge in parking lots or by beaches, rather than in the accommodation centers offered by the authorities.
In the coastal city of Santa Cruz, authorities have urged tourists to leave their hotels vacant, in order to provide beds for people fleeing the fires.
‘Reality’ of climate change
Daniel Berlant, representative of the California Fire Prevention Agency praised the firefighters’ efforts over the past 24 hours: “They are making progress, but the weather is not helping us.”
California on Sunday recorded what may be the third hottest temperature on Earth: 54.4 ° C in Death Valley.
If the mercury should drop slightly over the weekend, the risk of new thunderstorms and therefore lightning, leaves the agency on “alert”.
In a speech at the Democratic convention Thursday, California Governor Gavin Newsom emphasized the direct cause and effect link between climate change and these fires.
“Climate change is a reality,” he said. “If you don’t believe it, come to California.”
During a press briefing on Friday, the governor said firefighters from Texas, New Mexico and Oregon had been sent in as reinforcements and that other states were also to come to their aid.
In total, more than 312,000 hectares have been decimated in California since the start of this episode, mainly in uninhabited areas.
These fires, which usually occurred between August and November, have become more frequent and larger in California in recent years, due in part to climate change.
The deadliest fire in California history, dubbed Camp Fire, occurred in November 2018 in the upstate. He had made 86 deaths.
Smoke from fires has also prompted air pollution alerts, especially in San Francisco Bay. US weather services expected the skies to remain “foggy and smoky”, at least “in the short term.”