Tuesday, October 13, 2009

LA facing 'never-ending' fire season

Michael Brissenden in ABC News (in Australia) via Foreign Correspondent: Not only are the fires in LA becoming more frequent, but these days they are also less predictable and a lot bigger. More and more of them are now referred to as mega-fire and the response, in California at least, is to fight them with equal force.

In the last few lazy days of summer an act of arson tore through 10,000 hectares within a day and doubled in size every day for the first four days. The fire, dubbed the Station Fire, became the largest wildfire in Los Angeles county history.

…There are climate change sceptics out there for sure, but you will not find too many of them in the ranks of the California firefighters. Here on the front lines, they are all convinced that something has changed in the last 10 years.

Battalion leader, Pat Titus has a 30-year fire fighting record, and during the Station Fire, his team was pinned down defending a children's holiday camp deep in the forest above LA's northern fringe.

…The fire season used to start in July and run through to about November, but now it is an almost year-round state of alert and the anecdotal evidence of change from the fire front is backed up by the science. At the US fire central command in Boise Idaho, weather predictor Rick Ochoa says as the summers have become hotter and drier, they have seen the fuels dry out more and the forest change and he thinks the change is permanent….

A pyrocumulus cloud from the August 2009 Station fire in southern California as seen from above (in a departing commercial flight from LAX to DEN). Shot by Gayle Jones as Rdhettinger, Wikimedia Commons

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