Southern California’s “ludicrous” winter wildfire season has been on track to continue through Christmas, with continuing high winds and dry conditions offering no respite for exhausted firefighters and distraught residents.
“At a moment when firefighters—and anyone who lives and breathes in Southern California—could use a break, the atmosphere is about to double down,” meteorologist and climate hawk Eric Holthaus wrote December 4. “The latest weather forecasts continue to show not even a drop of rain for at least the next 16 days in Southern California, with a continuation of warmer-than-normal temperatures until Christmas Eve, or even longer. Conditions like that will favour continued smoldering or even new fire growth for the indefinite future in the areas that are still burning out of control.”
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Holthaus added the region’s rainfall since October has been less than 5% of normal, with humidity at near-record lows and temperatures in the range of 80°F/27°C. “That the fires are happening when the rainy season is normally already in full swing is one thing,” he wrote. “But the extent and unpredictability of the flames continue to astound officials tasked with stopping their spread.”
On Sunday, the latest headlines on Wildfire Today had firefighters saving hundreds of homes in Montecito from the Thomas Fire, which had already burned 269,000 acres in the Santa Barbara area and claimed 1,558 structures. A map of the latest Red Flag Warnings showed continuing hazards in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, and through a swath of north-central California that ran about half the length of the state and covered major parts of the Pacific coast.
Grist reported that at least 250 women inmates were being paid $2 per day plus $1 per hour and receiving credit toward early parole for risking their lives to fight the fires.
“I’ve seen women come back with broken ankles and broken arms, burns, or just suffering from exhaustion, you know, the psychological stress that people go through trying to just pass the requirements,” said Romarilyn Ralston, a former firefighter trainer.
Inmates have been fighting California fires since the 1940s, an arrangement that can save the state up to $100 million per year, a corrections official told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
In South Dakota, meanwhile, a herd of burros in Custer State Park were all found alive after being displaced by the Legion Lake Fire. But every one of them was injured, and it was too soon Saturday to tell how well they would do under a veterinarian’s care.