CALIFORNIA’S MOST DEVASTATING wildfire of the year started in rural Lake County just after 1 pm Saturday. Within 24 hours, it had grown to more than 50,000 acres. It consumed another 17,000 acres by Tuesday morning, destroying more than 580 homes and sending thousands of people fleeing ahead of the flames. Crews have only started getting a line around it and have no idea when they’ll gain the upper hand, reports wired.com.
Even seasoned firefighters have been stunned by the ferocity of the blaze, one of three major fires burning in the Golden State right now. All told, some 11,800 firefighters are scrambling to contain fires that have burned 381,000 acres of tinder-dry forests. State officials have summoned all available resources, including the National Guard, to join the effort and help beat back fires that show no sign of abating.
It’s been that way all summer. An epic drought and scorching heat have conspired to create one of the busiest fire seasons in recent years. At the moment, 23,050 firefighters are battling 106 fires throughout the West. All told, more than 46,000 fires have burned 8.8 million acres across the US, an area bigger than the state of Maryland. The Pentagon at one point dispatched US troops to work alongside the National Guard and firefighters from throughout the country and Canada in fighting the fires. Every available truck, tanker, chopper and plane has been deployed, but with manpower and resources stretched so thin authorities must occasionally triage fires, letting those that pose no risk to lives or property simply burn.
This Herculean effort is been coordinated through the National Interagency Fire Center, which manages the nation’s wildfire response efforts from its command center in Boise, Idaho. The Center is comprised of eight federal agencies that play key roles in managing fire response planning and operations. Thousands of firefighters and dozens of management teams can be deployed to a fire within days—or sooner, if necessary. The Valley Fire offers a lesson in how this massive effort is organized.
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