The day before the uncommonly deadly Camp Fire ignited near Chico, California, meteorologists were warning of unprecedented dryness from heat, winds, low humidity, and lack of precipitation. California was a tinderbox.
Since then, the monster fire has ripped through 148,000 acres, laid the town of Paradise (population 26,000) to waste, and destroyed more than 10,000 structures. This makes it the most destructive wildfire California has ever seen. Yet the human toll has been even more stunning: At least 71 people have died in the flames (with over 1,000 still unaccounted for), making it the single deadliest wildfire in state history.
The dry, windy conditions throughout California mean Southern California has also been at extreme risk for fires. On November 8, the Woolsey Fire sparked in Ventura County and then swept into Los Angeles County, torching a total of 98,300 acres and killing at least three.
Fire experts and climate scientists say the wildfires have certainly been made worse by climate change. “If Northern California had received anywhere near the typical amount of autumn precipitation this year (around 4-5 in. of rain near #CampFire point of origin), explosive fire behavior & stunning tragedy in #Paradise would almost certainly not have occurred,” climate scientist Daniel Swain wrote on Twitter. And the long-term projections for future shifts in precipitation and heat are bleak: California likely has many more dangerous wildfires in store.
“[Wildfires] will be part of our future ... things like this, and worse,’’ Gov. Jerry Brown said at a Sunday press conference. “That’s why it’s so important to take steps to help communities, to do prevention and adaptation.”
Local news reporters, residents, photojournalists, and scientists have been sharing images from the ground on what was left in the fires’ wake. There will be a lot of healing and rebuilding to do after these tragedies. Here’s what the situation looks like on the ground.
As harmful to health and distracting as the smoke is, it's what the smoke embodies--the painful and tragic loss of life, homes, communities, and place--that weighs the most. #CampFire pic.twitter.com/fpm8ovQQAS— E. Joaquin Esquivel (@ejesquivel) November 14, 2018
The #CampFire has been the most destructive fire in #California history, killing more than 23 people and burning thousands of homes. The fire continued to advance on Sunday, Nov.11. @latimes. pic.twitter.com/X7vtdSij2v— Carolyn Cole (@Carolyn_Cole) November 12, 2018
Was just sent this video from the Seminole Springs mobile home park in Malibu. Most got out with “just the shirt on their backs.” Now they’ve lost count after seeing more than 100 structures destroyed by the #WoolseyFire. : Eric Videgain pic.twitter.com/HH2lOefzkh— Jon Passantino (@passantino) November 11, 2018