Nearly a third of southern Sierra forests killed by drought and wildfire in last decade
By Amy Easton
10 August 2019
Southern California’s fire season has just begun—which is to say, it has already killed more than 25,000 acres—and it continues to burn thousands of homes, hundreds of businesses and a number of public buildings.
The latest death toll is far more than three weeks ago, when three firefighters died battling the Camp Fire in Butte County, with flames leaping up 500 feet into a canyon from two separate directions in the heart of the wine country.
The fires have destroyed nearly 10,000 homes and businesses and killed dozens of people. But the destruction has also been largely uneven, with a small number of structures left standing in nearly every other neighborhood. The fires in particular have been concentrated in the poorer and more rural areas of Los Angeles County.
“It’s a new frontier for fire, and it’s showing up in places we thought we’d be out of sight,” said Mark Thomas, a scientist with the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Services. “The flames are really just beginning to make their way up into the suburbs … They’ll move in. They won’t go away.”
The fires began with the beginning of the dry summer and were exacerbated by a record-breaking drought that is still ongoing. The fire season has been defined by the destruction of natural habitat and the destruction of infrastructure, such as roads and other infrastructure which is increasingly vulnerable to infernos and the threat of wildfire.
“We’re in a situation where we’re starting to see the effects of climate change on fires because of this drought,” said Thomas. “People are dying more in these places because of this drought.”
The fires in Los Angeles and Ventura counties alone have cost residents of almost 30 cities, counties, villages,