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Tue, 30 Aug 2016
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Calaveras County, CA: DUI driver charged with starting wildfire

A woman who was arrested for driving under the influence also faces additional charges in connection with sparking a wildfire in Calaveras County that prompted evacuations Sunday.

The fire was reported just after 1 p.m. east of San Andreas after California Highway Patrol officers were investigating a report of a woman driving up Mountain Ranch Road as her car was emitting sparks, officials said.

Officers arrested Renee Hogan for driving under the influence, CHP said.

Investigators said they determined Hogan was driving her 2002 Kia Rio on a right rear rim that was creating sparks. Her vehicle later burned as the flames spread.


35 large wildfires blazing across western United States

© Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review via AP
A plane drops a load of fire retardant on the north side of Beacon Hill, Sunday, Aug 21, 2016, in Spokane, Washington.
Nearly three dozen large wildfires are burning across the West, stretching fire crews thin as they work around-the-clock to contain the infernos.

Additionally, firefighters made initial attacks on 112 new blazes to prevent them from spreading. The situation forced the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, to raise the National Preparedness Level to 4 last week, one shy of the highest level.

Still, the wildfires have persisted this week. In Wyoming, a large wildfire has forced the closure of the main connecting road between Yellowstone National Park's southern end and Grand Teton National Park's northern border, according to Reuters.

This closure has been blamed on the Maple fire, which has burned more than 27,000 acres of land and is now less than four miles from the town of West Yellowstone, Montana, Reuters also said. The Maple fire and two other fires, burning in remote areas of Yellowstone National Park, were started by lightning, the report added.

Comment: 2016 is already a year of extreme weather disasters for the United States


Greece's fire services fight six large blazes

Greece's fire service was battling at least six large blazes in different parts of the country on Friday, their efforts hampered by strong winds which fueled the flames.

One was in the area of Aiges in the prefecture of Achaia in the Peloponnese. A team of 25 firefighters, manning 11 engines, were involved in that effort.

Another team of 13 firemen, with five fire engines, were dispatched to tackle a blaze in the area of Ambeliko near Karditsa in central Greece.

Twenty firemen with nine fire engines were sent to deal with a blaze in the area of Koutsoheri, Aitoloacarnania.

Meanwhile, firefighters battling a blaze close to Mega Spilaio, near Kalavryta, had managed to bring the fire under partial control by late evening.

The fire service was still struggling to put out two fires on Friday evening - one in the area of Metaxada in Messinia prefecture, and the other near the village of Kyparissos in Laconia.


2016 is already a year of extreme weather disasters for the United States

© Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Travis Guedry and his dog Ziggy glide through floodwaters keeping an eye out for people in need on August 17, 2016 in Sorrento, Louisiana. Tremendous downpours have resulted in disastrous flooding, responsible for at least seven deaths and thousands of homes being damaged.
The United States has already seen some of the most extreme weather disasters this year, and 2016 is only half over.

Just this week, the Blue Cut wildfire raged in Southern California, destroying dozens of houses and forcing over 80,000 residents to evacuate.

Also recently, at least 11 people were reported to have died from the catastrophic flooding in south Louisiana. About 30,000 people have been rescued since Friday, when heavy rains started to submerge communities. The flood, which is said to be one of the worst in Louisiana history, had damaged at least 40,000 homes.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released a report saying that as of July 2016, weather disasters have already caused $8-billion worth of losses across the U.S. NOAA has listed eight weather and climate disasters (2 flooding events and 6 severe storm events), with losses exceeding $1 billion each, including deaths and significant economic impact among affected areas. These weather events are all notable effects of climate change.

The Blue Cut wildfire and the Louisiana flooding are only two of the most catastrophic weather disasters that plagued the country. Here are the other deadly climate catastrophes that hit the U.S. so far in 2016.

Comment: For more coverage on the extreme weather affecting the planet, check out the monthly SOTT Earth Changes Summaries. Last month:

SOTT Earth Changes Summary - July 2016: Extreme Weather, Planetary Upheaval, Meteor Fireballs


Raging wildfires in eastern Washington destroy homes, force evacuations

© Spokane Co. Fire District 8
Wildfires Spread in Washington State, Forcing Hundreds to Flee
Firefighters battled fast-moving wildfires in eastern Washington that have destroyed homes and forced hundreds of residents to flee the flames.

Three blazes in the Spokane region erupted Sunday afternoon, sending families rushing to pile pets and keepsakes into vehicles and hit the road.

The Spokesman-Review reported that homes burned in the Beacon Hill area of Spokane, in wheat country near Spangle and north of Davenport in nearby Lincoln County.

But the extent of the losses and number of evacuees was unclear as firefighters prepared to work through the night and into Monday morning. No injuries have been reported.

Together the three blazes scorched nearly seven square miles of terrain and sent plumes of smoke billowing high over the region.


Rare force of nature: What is a firenado?

© Getty Images
Amidst the devastation of a huge wildfire in the US state of California, photos have emerged of a rare force of nature.

Firenadoes, torrents of wind and flame that burn at extreme temperatures, have been spotted in the hills near San Bernardino, 60 miles (96km) east of Los Angeles.

The whirlwinds form when a fire heats air above it and pulls in cool air at its base, creating a self-sustaining vortex. When large enough, these swirling columns are capable of ripping trees from the ground and pulling roofs off houses.

California's inferno currently spans 58 sq mi (150 sq km) in a dry, drought-ridden region of hills. More than 82,000 people have evacuated their homes. Only 22% of the fire has been contained.

Firefighters tend to avoid firenadoes due to their extreme heat and volatility. They instead focus on tackling more stable areas, where the movement of a fire can be safely predicted.

Comment: Some other rare firenadoes observed over the last couple of months include:


Northern Nevada wildfire increases to ten square miles

A federal official says more firefighters are being brought in to contain a wildfire that spread across more than 10 square miles of grassy rangeland just hours after a lightning strike in northern Nevada.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Gregory Deimel said Friday there have been no injuries reported among the more than 200 firefighters currently battling the fire 25 miles north of Battle Mountain.

Deimel says the fire started late Thursday and grew to some 6,600 acres by mid-day Friday. It's about 20 percent contained, but has been erratic during changing weather conditions.

Deimel says flames are threatening sage grouse habitat, but the closest ranch is several miles to the northwest.

No evacuations have been ordered.

He says air tankers are helping firefighters on the ground.

Source: AP


Amazing 'firenado' filmed near Cornelius, Oregon

This is a fire tornado -- or "firenado."

It occurred not far from Portland. The footage posted by the Cornelius Fire Department shows the twister spinning up smoke and flames as it moves across a field. Watch -- and it becomes a funnel of flames.

They are also called fire whirls, created when a wildfire or brush fire creates its own wind, which can turn into a spinning vortex of flames.

Crews were able to put out the fire without anyone getting hurt.


Portugal's August wildfires make up half of EU's 2016 total

© Nuno Andre Ferreira/EPA
Authorities say a series of wildfires this month in Portugal has burned more than half of the land lost to blazes in the entire 28-nation European Union so far this year.

The EU's Forest Fire Information System, which collates wildfire data, says wildfires have charred more than 217,000 hectares (536,200 acres) in the bloc in 2016.

Almost 116,000 hectares (286,600 acres) of the charred forest land is in Portugal, the agency told The Associated Press.

Four people have died in the country's worst wildfires in recent memory.

However, Portuguese emergency services reported Wednesday that cooler temperatures and a drop in wind strength gave fire crews some respite after two weeks of battling intense flames.

Comment: Over 700 forest wildfires break out in Portugal


Colorado firefighter films wildfire-fueled firenado near Beaver Creek, Colorado

A firefighter battling a Colorado wildfire captured footage of a wind-fueled firenado spinning a column of flames into the sky.

The firenado, also known as a fire tornado or fire whirl, was photographed Sunday by Charles "Trey" Bolt of the Beaver Creek Fire Department Engine 1419.

The department posted the photo to Facebook and later followed up with Bolt's video of the spinning column of flames.

"One of our firefighters captured this fire whirl yesterday on the ‪#‎BeaverCreekFire‬. Wow!" the post said.

The Beaver Creek Fire has burned through nearly 57 square miles since it began June 19. The fire is 44 percent contained, firefighters said.

The unusual phenomenon was caught on video just days after firefighters in Oregon captured footage of a similar firenado swirling on the border of the town of Cornelius.