SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials Wednesday warned California residents to be prepared for larger and more destructive wildfires this year.
Currently, nearly 13,000 firefighters were on the lines of 16 large wildfires Wednesday burning across California. To date, the fires have burned over 320,000 acres and damaged or destroyed over 1,600 homes and other structures.
The Carr Fire had grown into the 6th most destructive fire in state history surpassing the 2017 Nuns Fire in Sonoma County. By Wednesday, the Carr Fire had scorched 180.5 square miles (115,538 acres), an area larger than the city of San Jose (180.2 square miles). Nearly 10 days after it started near Highway 299 west of Redding, the fire is only 35 percent contained.
Officials said the fire has destroyed 1,018 residences, 12 structures and 435 outbuildings. Another 181 residences, six commercial structures and 61 outbuildings have been damaged.
“Fires are now a more apart of our ordinary experience,” Brown told reporters. “The predictions that things would get drier and hotter are occuring. We are in quite a cycle…The more serious predictions of (global) warming and fires to occur later in the century — 2040 or 2050 — they are now occurring in real time. You can expect, unfortunately, for that to intensify.”
When asked about the potential for larger fires this summer and fall, Brown said: “I don’t have a crystal ball here but I would not be surprised if there were more fires…It’s drier, the soil is drying, the vegetation is drying that makes for perfect kindling. And then these winds events, wind storms and tornado type behavior — some of this is unprecedented. We’re learning as we go. We’re in new normal…I would suspect there are more fires to come.”
Brown said the changing climate and weather pattern has put California at odds with Mother Nature.
“Nature is very powerful and we’re not on the side of nature, we are fighting nature with the amount of material we are putting in the environment,” he said.
As for having the money to fund the firefighting effort, Brown says there are funds available in the budget.
“Whatever resources are needed, we’re putting them there,” Brown said. “We’re being surprised. Every year is teaching the fire authorities new lessons. We’re in uncharted territory.”
Just a month into the budget year, the state has already spent one quarter of its annual fire budget, at least $130 million.