California governor emphasizes wildfires show reality of climate change

Firefighters are making tremendous progress combating the huge wildfire complexes afflicting California — but the real battle is against climate change, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday.

The average temperatures in the Golden State have increased by three degrees since 1980, illustrated most recently with the hottest August in recorded state history, according to Newsom.

“The fundamental facts cannot be denied,” Newsom said. “The trendlines are not going in the right direction.”

The governor’s comments come just two days after President Donald Trump refused to acknowledge the effects the climate crisis is having on the state’s forest fires during a visit to California, where he joined Newsom on a tour of a wildfire-ravaged area.

Newsom said Wednesday that he “directly confronted the president” on climate change — though a video of the press briefing from earlier this week shows a more gentle exchange between leaders.

“I think there’s a way of approaching people and good people can disagree,” Newsom said. “And I maintain we are making progress and to the extent we are being heard, I believe we are.”

However, he said that he does not expect Trump to “radically change course.”

“I will continue to be stubborn as I imagine he will be as well, it’s not a belief system, it’s data,” he said. “Science. You have to acknowledge facts.”

Just one month ago, lightning strikes during an extreme heat wave sparked rash of fires across the state.

Wildfires ran rampant specifically in areas that have impacted by recent drought, leaving 136 million dead, dry trees “that act as kindling,” Newsom said.

Already, multiple blazes have destroyed more than 4.7 million acres across the West Coast, as dry grass and high winds have created tinderbox conditions.

The fires have killed at least 34 people, and reduced thousands of homes to embers.

American Farm Bureau Federation asks for additional resources

The American Farm Bureau Federation, which describes itself as “an independent, non-governmental, voluntary organization governed by and representing farm and ranch families,” and 13 state farm bureaus sent a letter to Congress asking for additional resources to prevent and recover from the catastrophic wildfires on the West Coast.

“Backlogs in adequate management coupled with drier, hotter conditions, have resulted in unhealthy, overly dense forests,” the letter states. “When fires inevitably occur, these conditions result in larger, more catastrophic fires that are difficult to control, destructive to both urban and rural communities and pose great threats to both private property and human life.”

The letter, addressed to Senate leadership, also advocates for the Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act, which is being considered in the Senate today.

The Act would speed up forest management and post-fire reforestation, and have dangerous wood removed from forests.

“Farm Bureau members hold public lands grazing permits, own property adjacent federally managed lands and engage in both public and private land forestry,” they wrote in the letter. “In addition to direct crop and livestock losses, agricultural commodities are also being impacted via smoke-taint and ash.”

California wildfires kill 25 people

More than 17,000 firefighters are on the front lines in California battling more than two dozen large fires. At least 25 people have died and 3.3 million acres have burned since the beginning of the year.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been nearly 7.900 wildfires that have burned over 3.3 million acres in California. Since August 15, when the state’s fire activity elevated, there have been 25 fatalities and over 4,200 structures destroyed.

This year’s deadliest fire has been the North Complex, with at least 15 deaths and more than 273,000 acres burned. It was 36% contained as of Wednesday. It is the fifth deadliest fire in state history.

The Butte County Sheriff’s Office has identified 10 of 15 victims, who range in ages from 16 to 79.

The August Complex Fire, the largest in state history, continues to burn in Northern California. It has consumed 817,952 acres and is 30% contained.

“With no significant precipitation in sight, California remains dry and ripe for wildfires,” said Cal Fire. A warming trend returning over the weekend will increase the fire danger.

But smoke conditions and visibility are improving in northern California, according to NWS Bay Area.

“What a difference we’ve seen in the last 24 hours,” NWS Bay Area tweeted Tuesday night. “Substantial improvements in our visibilities all across the region this evening as onshore and mid-level winds continue to gradually improve our skies.”

Further south, air quality remains an issue with smoke advisories issued for the Bobcat and El Dorado fires.

The El Dorado Fire, sparked by a gender reveal gone awry, has consumed more than 18,000 acres and is 60% contained while the Bobcat Fire has consumed more than 44,000 acres and is at 3% containment. Portions of foothill cities of Arcadia and Sierra Madre are under evacuation orders.

Mobile morgue set up in Oregon

At least eight people have died and 16 more are missing among the 29 fires in Oregon, according to the state’s fire dashboard.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release investigators identified two victims in the Beachie fire as 41-year-old Justin Cook and 71-year-old Cathy Cook, both from the city of Lyons. The Cooks were located near their property, the sheriff’s office said in the release.

A mobile facility for the medical examiner has been established in Linn County as officials prepare for the possibility of more fatalities.

Despite deadly conditions, some residents opted to stay behind to protect their homes from incoming flames.

Darren Richardson ignored evacuation orders as the Beachie Creek Fire closed in on his neighborhood, CNN affiliate KATU reported.

“My house is still there, my whole block is there, because we went up there and fought it,” Richardson told KATU. “I’ve been there, I watched the town burn down, I was there for 14 hours trying to put it out with other people.”

Richardson was able to save his home but most of the town was burned, the affiliate said.

A federal disaster declaration has been approved for the state to help fund the state’s recovery and Oregon’s Congressional delegation is urging Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to declare the wildfires in Oregon a public health emergency.

“This decision will make more Federal aid available to the State and provide resources needed for our communities to rebuild,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D) said in a tweet Tuesday. DeFazio wrote that he was told of the decision by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

“Oregon is resilient, but to fight fires on this scale, we need all the help we can get,” tweeted Gov. Kate Brown. “Grateful we’ve been quickly granted a Presidential Disaster Declaration, helping provide support like damage assessment teams, search & rescue, debris management, shelter & medical assistance.”

More than 620,000 acres burned in Washington

In Washington, more than 620,000 acres have burned in recent weeks, creating a thick, blanket of smoke trapped by mountain ranges on either side.

Two hundred structures have been destroyed and at least one person has died — a child in the Cold Springs fire near Omak.

During a press conference Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee called the air quality “oppressive.”

He said the wildfires have resulted in the most consecutive days of hazardous air quality since the state began regular monitoring nearly two decades ago.

“Now our air quality I know is oppressive, and it remains unhealthy at best and hazardous at worst according to our state,” Inslee said. ” Across the state we have concerns at the air outside right now is at historically polluted levels.”

Two hundred miles of power lines are down in central Washington and several hundred utility poles have burned, the governor added.

The smoky skies have prompted Alaska Airlines to suspend flights to Portland and Spokane.