Flames approach a pool in the El Capitan Canyon camp as firefighters battles the Refugio fire in Santa Barbara, CA on Thursday, June 16, 2016.

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.”

Originially published in the Los Angeles Times

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.

Firefighters fight the Refugio Fire along a trail behind the El Capitan Canyon camp in Santa Barbara, CA.

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.

Earth Observatory maps by Joshua Stevens, using data provided by Matt Jolly, USDA Forest Service. Acquired 1979 to 2013.

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.

Originally published in the Los Angeles Times

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.

The intense drought conditions in California led to intense and aggressive fires across the state in 2016. According to an article in the Pasadena Star News, Amy head, a fire captain with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said her agency spent $366 million fighting wildfires during the agency’s 2015–2016 fiscal year. This number is up from the $209 million spent the year before.
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