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Can Wildfires Burn Down Los Angeles?

13 Dec 2017, 4:14 pm

We all know of the great fires of history. The Chicago fire, the Great Fire of London– the list goes on; entire cities up in flame.

But can it happen today?
A question that seems overtly relevant in the face of a truly devastating wildfire season for the state of California.

California Thomas Fire

⛑HAT TIP to all Firefighters and First Responders who've worked endlessly to keep Californians safe amid these wildfires! Around 700 additional fire fighters have been brought in from neighboring states to assist the massive Thomas Fire that began last week and has since grown to ~ 234,200 acres. #CAwx

Posted by WeatherNation on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

This Season

2017 was a year for the record books.

  • The worst year of wildfires in recorded history.
  • More than 1,000,000 acres have burned in the state of California alone.
  • Thousands of homes and businesses destroyed.
  • More than 40 people died in wildfires in 2017

The reason this season was so bad can be blamed on the weather.

  • Record precipitation during the 2016-2017 wet season.
  • Abundant plant growth.
  • Extremely hot and dry summer.
  • Dried and dead plants became fuel for the fires
  • Powerful Santa Ana winds.

In a recent interview with CalFire, Public Information Officer Scott McLean said, “We really don’t have a season anymore.” In reference to the ongoing fires across Southern California.
Instead, we are seeing wildfires more as a year round event.

This, coupled with growing residential areas, only made matters worse.
California’s population continues to rapidly grow. As individuals and families explore new areas to reside, they are building their homes closer to wildfire-prone areas.

Thomas Fire Plumes

Check out this video that the Ventura County Fire Department shared. In the video you can see huge plumes of smoke from the Thomas Fire.

Posted by WeatherNation on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A City on Fire

It’s happened before.

This isn’t the first time wildfires in California have encroached upon highly populated residential areas. In 1961 the Bel-Air fire claimed more than 500 homes, even claiming the residences of some of Hollywood’s elite at the time.
The fire, just over 16,000 acres, was fanned by Santa Ana winds similar to that of this December.

This year we’ve already seen wildfires burn some heavily populated areas. Santa Rosa lost 5% of its homes this year from the devastating wildfires– an area that grew by more than 10% in the past decade.

The 405, a major L.A. throughway that sees some 400,000 cars each day, was shut down because of a nearby wildfire this year.

Lance on Thomas Fire

California resident Lance Orozco has been following the California wildfires, hear what he has to say about why these fires are a little out of the ordinary for state.

Posted by WeatherNation on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

But Can it Happen?

I set out writing this article to find an answer to the question, but as I researched and wrote– I realized that it doesn’t really matter.

The wildfires in and around L.A. have already forced hundreds of thousands of residents to evacuate their homes.

In a matter of days we saw one of the worst wildfire outbreaks in Southern California history.

For residents not forced to evacuate, daily life has been drastically impacted.

So as powerful, dry winds continue to fan the flames of the late-season inferno the real question is not if they can burn L.A. but instead, what can we do in the face of ever-threatening wildfires?

It wasn’t just Southern California that saw devastating wildfires. Northern California, Montana, and much of the western U.S. fell victim to one of the worst fire seasons in history.

California Wildfires

HEARTBREAKING! Thousands still evacuating as California wildfires grow out of control. This has been the longest and strongest Santa Ana wind event so far this season. This is the video from the SKIRBALL FIRE that shut down the 405 earlier this morning that started last night in LA county. #CAwx

Posted by WeatherNation on Wednesday, December 6, 2017

For WeatherNation — Meteorologist Jeremy LaGoo

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