At least 20 wildfires are currently burning throughout the state of California. Firefighters from across the country have converged on the state to battle the blazes and the California National Guard and additional outside groups are being deployed. Photos from the California wildfires paint a sobering picture of the Golden State, illustrating exactly why Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency.
U.S. Forest Service officials told USA Today that nearly 50,000 acres have been burned in the heavily-forested southern California counties of San Bernardino and Alpine alone. In northern California, over 45,000 acres are currently burning in the Rocky Fire near Lower Lake to say nothing of the many other active fires. The fires have threatened the lives of hundreds of California residents as well as firefighters and emergency personnel. In a statement Brown made prior to issuing his state of emergency proclamation, the governor cited the ongoing drought as one of the primary reasons why California is in such bad shape when it comes to fire prevention and containment:
California's severe drought and extreme weather have turned much of the state into a tinderbox. Our courageous firefighters are on the front lines and we'll do everything we can to help them.
The aforementioned Rocky Fire has been burning since July 29 and is only 5 percent contained, making it the largest and one of the most dangerous in the state. According to NASA, the fire is so massive that its smoke can be seen from space. An image of the fire was snapped by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer located on NASA's Terra satellite, showing light brown smoke emanating from the area. Current data from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection shows over 6,300 structures being threatened with 50 buildings already destroyed. The cause of the fire is currently still under investigation.
Just one day after the Rocky Fire began, lighting caused an area in Modoc National Forest to ignite 100 miles south of the Oregon border, a little over 200 miles from Lower Lake near the unincorporated community of Scarface. Known as the Frog Fire, the blaze has claimed 3,000 acres, as well as the life of one firefighter. Firefighter David Ruhl came to California from the Black Hills National Forest firefighting team in South Dakota in June, where he was the Mystic River District's Engine Captain. Ruhl spent his months in California as an Assistant Fire Management Officer in the Modoc Forest. He was scouting an area of the Frog Fire in Alturas on Thursday when he lost contact with his fellow firefighters. His remains were discovered on Friday morning. As of this writing, the Frog Fire is just 5 percent contained.
This year shows a marked uptick in wildfires compared to the 2,552 fire average of the past five years. According to California Department of Forestry and Fire Chief Ken Pimlott, the state has had nearly 4,000 fires in 2015 alone.
Images: Getty Images (8)