As the drought continues in California for its fifth year, wildfires have burned more than 30,000 acres on state and federal land.
South Lake resident Lisa Blair searches through the ashes with her boyfriend Joshua Wood after her home was burned to the ground in the Erskine Fire.
“I couldn’t find my mom. I couldn’t find my sister. I couldn’t find any of them. I was scared to death, and then I got told the fire was engulfing houses in South Lake.”
Blair’s home was one of more than 100 trailers and homes there were burned in the 1-square mile area where she lived. The blaze, which was fueled by high temperatures and erratic winds, burned over more than 36,000 acres and destroyed at least 200 structures over the three weeks that it burned. One elderly couple lost their lives to smoke inhalation, making it the first fire of the year to have fatalities and the 15th most destructive fire in the States history.
“It sucks when you lose everything that you have known for the last 15 to 20 years,” said Blair.
“It was my childhood home…and its horrible to see it like this now.”
The Erskine fire was one of 6,938 fires that burned across the state of California last year, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
According to an article by Nasa’s Earth Observatory, LeRoy Westerling, a professor studying climate and wildfire at the University of California-Merced say’s the number of blazes on public lands across the West has increased 500 percent since the late 1970s.
These fires are part of a intense global warming trend towards larger and more frequent wildfires. A new analysis of 35 years of meteorological data, led by U.S. Forest service ecologist Matt Jolly, has confirmed that fire seasons have become longer.
The study found that parts of the western United States now face wildfire seasons that are more than a month longer than they were 35 years ago. The authors in the study attribute the longer season in this region to changes in the snowmelt, vapor pressure, and the timing of spring rain, which have all been linked to global warming and climate change.
Although the region has seen a recent increase in precipitation, a large portion of the southern part of the state still remains in severe and extreme drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Lincoln, Nebraska.
The monitor also reports that more than 18,000,000 people still live in severe to extreme drought conditions, which signifies that the drought and impending wildfires are far from over.