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California wildfires exhaust first responders

by Courtney Deeren - Lifestyles Editor
Tue, Nov 5th 2019 09:20 pm

Two fires are wreaking havoc on the state of California. Both the Maria fire, which is affecting Sonoma and Los Angeles counties and the Kincade fire, which has been contained mainly to the northern parts of the state, have first responders working tirelessly to put out the blaze. With the autumnal winds fanning the flames, this has been no easy feat. 

The Kincade fire began in late October, and according to an article published by NPR “PG&E reported that one of its transmission towers may have been the source of the fire” on Oct. 24. The article goes on to further explain a windstorm that began Tuesday evening fueling the fire, leading to the destruction of at least 360 structures and injuring four first responders west of Sacramento.

While the Kincade fire has been 70% contained, a blaze that broke out northwest of Los Angeles is continuing to be a problem. The Maria fire which began the night of Thursday, Oct. 31 has only added to the state of emergency. 

While weather was an important factor for spreading the fires, another issue that has come along with battling the flames has been drones. Some drones in the area are making it unsafe for emergency responder aircraft to go in and smother the fire. 

According to a quote by Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Mike DesForges as reported by NPR, “two separate instances of drone flights disrupted water-dropping helicopters from attempting structure protection in the nearby city of Santa Paula.”

“The helicopters had to set down for 30 to 40 minutes each time,” DesForges said. “The drones are difficult to see and they can be pushed by winds very easily. If they strike one of our helicopters, they could cause it to crash, and if not, we would still need to land that helicopter to perform repairs.”

The responders to the Kincade fires are also dealing with drone sightings. “Our aircraft are coming in low, 150 to 200 feet off the ground, and you’re having them fly through mountainous topography, not a simple straight line,” McLean said. “One, you have no time to react, and two, you have no time to avoid it in any way, because what are you going to run into if you do? Whether that be a tree or a hillside, it’s a very dynamic situation.” McLean’s department will pursue all legal actions available against the individuals responsible for flying the drones if they are caught.

Many residents are still without power in the affected areas and several schools remain closed. These power outages are detrimental to the quality of life of some residents and have drawn criticism across the state. 

“While this week showed how California is leading the world in wildfire prevention and response, PG&E presented the opposite portrait,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a Medium post. “Long and widespread blackouts highlighted their culture of ineptitude — a behemoth that was slow to act and resistant to change.”

In his first response to the fires, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to criticize Newsom stating “The Governor of California, @GavinNewsom, has done a terrible job of forest management. I told him from the first day we met that he must “clean” his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him. Must also do burns and cut fire stoppers.”

Trump continued the tweet in a series of subtweets following up immediately the first with “Every year, as the fire’s rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more. Get your act together Governor. You don’t see close to the level of burn in other states...But our teams are working well together in.”

Trump has made this threat in the past as well. Last November he threatened to cut federal aid to California and again in January, according to ABC News. 

“Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money,” Trump wrote on twitter in January. 

Trump has a history of blaming California officials but according to research done by the University of California, most of California’s forests are owned and managed by federal agencies. With 57% of the approximately 33 million acres of forest in the state managed by federal groups.

Trump also tweeted Sunday morning that California “desperately needs water.” However, drought maps show that during this time California is not in desperate need of water as Trump suggested and drought is not playing a role in the wildfires.

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