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“We are living in a mega-fire era”: California wildfires displace nearly 200,000 people

California in the midst of a “mega-fire era” as historic wildfires displace more than 200,000 people and leave seven dead.

Firefighters in California have begun to turn the tide against what has been described as a “mega-fire” that has displaced more than 200,000 people and burned more than 1.2 million acres.

Jake Hess, a Cal Fire unit chief, told reporters on Monday, “We are essentially living in a mega-fire era.” 

California fires
Josh Edelson / Getty Images

Conditions were initially expected to get worse with dry lightning and winds forecast; however, what eventuated was luckily less severe than expected. Temperatures in the area have begun to cool, with lightning strikes decreasing as firefighters prepare for a mammoth few weeks in order to suppress the fire.

Mark Brunton, Operations Chief of Cal Fire said, “The weather is really cooperating with us.” 

Despite this, residents who have been staying home during the Coronavirus pandemic have been urged to seek refuge away from their houses. Mark Galy, California’s top health official said, “We’re telling many folks who haven’t left their homes for months, who are worried about their exposure to COVID, that it’s safer to leave than stay.”

14,000 firefighters, 2,400 engines, and 95 aircraft are helping fight multiple fires across the state, including the CZU Lightning Complex, the LNU Lightning Complex, and the SCU Lightning Complex – the latter two being the second and third largest California fires in history.

The CZU Lightning Complex is said to be 21% contained, the SCU Lighting Complex at 30%, and LNU Lightning Complex at 33% containment. The size of one of these fires has been compared to double that of the entire size of the city of San Francisco.

However, September and October are known to be the peak months in fire season, with Cal Fire Assistant Deputy Director, Daniel Berlant saying, “To be in the middle of August and already have the second and the third-largest wildfires in our state’s history is very concerning to us.”

With wildfires burning on during the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s response efforts have been complicated by the risk of exposure to the virus for anyone looking to evacuate their homes and stay at evacuation centres.

Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, said in a press conference on Monday, “Foundationally and fundamentally, we are deploying every resource.”

He continued, “We continue to battle historic wildfires, but we’re also battling this historic pandemic.”