California’s wildfires powered by perfect storm of fire hazards

Low humidity, parched vegetation and warm winds have led to fires that have killed at least 17, left over 150 people missing and destroyed over 2000 homes

– this Saturday in London – last chance to buy tickets

Fire has devastated large areas of northern California, killing at least 17, with 155 people missing, and destroying at least 2000 homes. Wildfires have torched almost 30,000 hectares, mostly in the wine-growing regions of Napa and Sonoma counties, including the area around Santa Rosa.

The US National Weather Service (NWS) issued a red-flag warning on Tuesday, blaming near-perfect fire conditions. Warm offshore winds gusting at up to 50 kilometres per hour served as bellows, spreading fire in conditions of low humidity and parched vegetation. “Any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly,” warned the NWS. “Shifting winds may push ongoing fires in new directions.”

The Californian fires are the latest in a year that has seen abnormally high wildfire activity in the US. On 1 October, the US National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho predicted that northern California was at especially grave risk. “Weather patterns along the West Coast allowed fuels to dry and become receptive to fire,” it warned.

The NWS said conditions could ease in northern California by midweek, but the south would still be at risk. “Winds and the fire weather threat will decrease Tuesday in the north, but a threat will remain in southern California,” it said.

There is evidence that the warm winds fanning wildfires in northern parts of the state are being exacerbated by rising temperatures triggered by climate change.

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