National Post (Latest Edition)
Thousands evacuated as wildfires erupt in California wine country
Sonoma, Napa counties burn amid heat wave
Swiftly moving wildfires roared into parts of Santa Rosa, Calif., overnight and Monday morning, causing damage in the eastern parts of the community and sending thousands fleeing during hasty nighttime evacuations. The fires have erupted during yet another heat wave of a series that has shattered records across the state since August, and dry offshore winds are pushing the flames to spread rapidly downwind.
Homes were engulfed in flames in the Skyhawk neighbourhood in eastern Santa Rosa as the Shady Fire advanced into the community. That blaze began Sunday night in Napa County, near the Glass Fire that had begun early Sunday.
The Shady Fire jumped Highway 12 in Oakmont, and forced a 5,000-person senior community to be evacuated by bus as flames moved closer. Evacuation orders extended into the eastern periphery of Santa Rosa while an evacuation warning was in effect for the city itself. An evacuation warning is not the same as an order, but puts residents on notice that an order could come at any time and advises that they be ready to flee.
Fires were burning Monday morning in Sonoma and Napa counties, raising fears of the devastation wrought by the Wine Country fires of 2017, when Santa Rosa was heavily damaged. In Napa County, the Glass Fire ignited Sunday and spread quickly as dry winds picked up. Calfire tweeted it had burned 11,000 acres as of Monday morning.
The Sacramento Bee reported the Chateau Boswell Winery was engulfed in flames in video recorded by Bee visual journalist Daniel Kim, on the Silverado Trail outside St. Helena. The Glass Mountain Inn also burned, the paper reported. Wineries had already been heavily impacted by the smoke from nearby blazes that is affecting their grapes, and other facilities had burned in previous fires this season.
It’s not just new blazes that Californians were dealing with Monday, either. The North Complex Fire in Butte County spread further amid the more dangerous fire weather conditions, prompting various forms of evacuation warnings along its western side, including places heavily impacted by the Camp Fire in 2018, which was California’s deadliest blaze. Paradise, Calif., which was nearly wiped out by that fire, was placed under an evacuation warning Sunday night.
The North Complex is already responsible for killing 15 during the last heat wave, which occurred in mid- September.
California is locked into a weather pattern featuring repeated areas of strong high pressure, or heat domes, that deflect any storminess and lead to hot and dry conditions. The area of high pressure parked over the West right now is unusually strong for this time of year.
Downtown San Francisco was under a heat advisory Monday, with inland areas potentially topping 38 C.
The wildfires that began during a heat wave in mid- August have burned a record expanse of more than 3.7 million acres and killed 26, according to Cal Fire. Five of the state’s top 20 largest fires have occurred in 2020, including the largest, known as the August Complex.
The ongoing heat and dry wind event is slated to last through the week, though the most dangerous period in wine country as well as other parts of Northern California looks to be through Monday night, as dry winds combine with the high temperatures to create tinder dry conditions.
“Incredible ongoing fire weather conditions,” tweeted Nick Nauslar, a meteorologist with the National Interagency Fire Center.
Conditions in the Los Angeles area could lead to “extreme fire behaviour,” the Weather Service warned. In L.A. County, firefighters have been working to shore up containment zones around the Bobcat Fire.
The worst fire- fanning winds are predicted to subside by Tuesday, but hot, dry conditions conducive to fires are forecast to linger for much of this week over the West.
“Elevated fire weather conditions will continue across all areas,” the Weather Service office in L. A. wrote, regarding the forecast for Southern California.
California is only now getting into its traditional landto- sea wind season, when it typically sees some of its worst wildfires.
Heat waves are more likely and intense because of human-caused global warming, and some case studies have shown certain extreme heat events would not have occurred without human-caused global warming.
Because of repeated heat waves and a lack of summer monsoon rain, Forest Service data shows Southern California mountains are at or near record- dry levels for this time of year.