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Wildfires

Bizarro Earth

Giant wildfire chars 15,000 acres within Yosemite National Park, as blaze rages closer to San Francisco water reservoir

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© REUTERS/Max Whittaker
Firefighters work to prevent the Rim Fire from jumping Highway 120 near Buck Meadows, California, August 24, 2013.
One of the largest California wildfires in decades roared largely unchecked for a 10th day through forests in and around Yosemite National Park on Monday and threatened a reservoir that supplies most of San Francisco's water.

As of midday, the eastern flank of the so-called Rim Fire had burned to within a mile of Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy reservoir on the Tuolumne River, raising concerns about the possibility of ash and soot contaminating the sprawling artificial lake.

On Saturday, flames had been no closer than 4 miles from the reservoir, which supplies 85 percent of the water consumed by 2.6 million people in San Francisco and several communities in three adjacent counties about 200 miles to the west.

Roughly 300 million gallons of water is carried to the San Francisco Bay area daily through tunnels and an aqueduct, and reservoir samples show water quality has remained healthy since the fire began on August 17, according to a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

"There's no evidence of a change in the water quality, and there's no change in our ability to deliver that water to all of our customers," said the spokeswoman, Suzanne Gautier.

Phoenix

Massive California wildfire creating its own weather patterns

A raging California wildfire has grown to 200 square miles and is so large and burning with such force that it is creating its own weather patterns, making it hard to predict where it will move, fire officials said Saturday night.


"As the smoke column builds up it breaks down and collapses inside of itself, sending downdrafts and gusts that can go in any direction,'' CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant told NBC Bay Area. "There's a lot of potential for this one to continue to grow.''

More than 5,500 homes are threatened by the blaze, called the Rim Fire, and four were destroyed.

Bizarro Earth

Yosemite fire one of the largest in California history


Groveland -- One of the largest wildfires in recent California history burned out of control in and around Yosemite National Park on Saturday, charring more than 125,000 acres, briefly threatening San Francisco's power supply and frustrating firefighters' efforts to contain it.

The fast-moving Rim fire has doubled in size since Thursday night and remains only 5% contained, with steep terrain, warm weather and low humidity hampering firefighting efforts. Adding to the difficulty is the blaze's tendency to burn the tops of trees, creating a "crown fire" with long, intense flames that skip across forested land faster than a wildfire that creeps along near the ground.

Assisted by trench-digging bulldozers and water-dropping aircraft, more than 2,600 firefighters were battling the fire. Crews worked Saturday to keep the fire away from buildings at Camp Mather, just north of Highway 120 .
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© Jeff Schmaltz/NASA

Bizarro Earth

Huge California wildfire spreads into Yosemite

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© AP
The Rim Fire burning near Yosemite
A giant wildfire raging out of control spread into Yosemite National Park on Friday as authorities urged more evacuations in nearby communities where thousands have already been forced out by flames marching through the timbered slopes of the western Sierra Nevada.

The fire has hit the park - whose streams and lakes, grandeur and granite peaks attract millions of people from all over the world - at the height of summer season, just a week before the Labor Day holiday.

The blaze has closed backcountry hiking in the park, but was not threatening the Yosemite Valley region, one of California's most popular tourist destinations.

The fire grew to more than 165 square miles and was only 2 percent contained. It continued to spread in several directions, although "most of the fire activity is pushing to the east right into Yosemite," said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Smoke blowing across the Sierra into the state of Nevada forced officials in several counties to cancel outdoor school activities and issue health advisories, especially for people with respiratory problems.

Phoenix

Fires sweep trough Madeira

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© Jeff Schmaltz LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC.
Fires have been burning out of control on the Portuguese island of Madeira. The fire that broke out in the early hours of the morning on August 16, 2013 above the village of Monte became stronger towards noontime as intense heat and the wind made the flames spread.

News outlets have been reporting that up to eleven houses were destroyed over the weekend. Firefighters have been battling to control the flames which reached the outskirts of the capital Funchal by Friday night. The hospital in Funchal had to be evacuated, according to reports. The original fires are reported to be largely extinguished, but another has been causing concern after rekindling last night in Barreira, above Santo António. Properties have been threatened and residents evacuated. Stronger winds were apparently to blame. An accident involving an Army vehicle and resulting in one dead and three injured firefighting personnel has been reported.

Phoenix

Wildfires persist in California

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© Jeff Schmaltz LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC
Several fires are currently raging in central and northern California. These fires can be seen in this natural-color Terra satellite image taken by the MODIS instrument on August 18, 2013.

The American wildfire began August 10, 2013 and the cause of the fire is still under investigation. To date over 13,000 acres have been affected. The growth potential for this fire is high due to terrain and weather patterns. Thunderstorms predicted over the next few days may bring additional complexity and increase the potential for new starts. The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning beginning today, through Wednesday evening, August 21. Changing weather patterns are likely to affect fire behavior and smoke dispersal patterns.

The Swedes Fire began on August 17, 2013 and grew to 1,995 acres Sunday, where it now stands. Firefighters have contained 45 percent of the blaze. The goal is to have the fire fully contained by Thursday the 22nd. Winds are erratic and change frequently, which is dangerous for residents in the area because the fire can move quickly in unexpected directions.

Pharoah

To do or not to do: Obama administration quietly suspends military aid to Egypt, mulls 'coup' - report

Egyptian soldiers
© AFP
Egyptian soldiers walk amid the remains of the destroyed camp of ousted Mohammed Morsi supporters outside Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque on August 15, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt.
Top US lawmakers have quietly agreed to temporarily suspend most military aid to Egypt, indicating that behind the scenes Washington is starting to treat the military's ouster of President Morsi as a coup, according to a new report.

The Obama administration has temporarily halted the delivery of weapons to the Egyptian military as well as some forms of economic aid to the government, despite deciding not to officially describe the military takeover as a coup. The office of Senator Patrick Leahy, the head of the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, told The Daily Beast on Monday that the administration has implemented these changes over the past month as it formulates an official determination on the coup.


Comment: When it comes to enemies of the US, condemnation from the US comes within minutes and no technicalities of language is needed. We are now 7 weeks after the coup in Egypt and the US is still using soft language such as calling for restraint and seeking for a political solution, while pondering if it really could be a called a coup.


Bizarro Earth

'Angry' Idaho fire spreads to 126,000 acres, threatens luxury resort homes

More than 10,000 homes are threatened by a furious Idaho wildfire, including getaways owned by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis, after an all-out "ground and air attack" failed to stop the blaze spreading to more than 126,000 acres, according to latest reports from the U.S. Forest Service. "Take your essentials, belongs and pets and GO NOW," a news release on inciweb warned those in the path of the lightning-sparked Beaver Creek fire. Despite an army of more than 1,200 firefighters, the blaze continues to spread across parched sagebrush, grasslands and pine forests in the Sun Valley area. "Every fire has a personality, and this fire has an angry personality," Beth Lund, and incident commander with the U.S. Forest Service team managing the blaze in central Idaho told Reuters.

More than 10,000 homes near the towns of Hailey and Ketchum remain threatened by the blaze, including luxury getaways owned by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis. The fire that has been burning for more than 12 days, scorching an area larger than the city of Denver, has already forced 2,250 homes into a mandatory evacuation order. Another 7,700 homes are under what is known as pre-evacuation, giving them time to pack up essential belongings and get ready to go at a moment's notice if the fire grows closer.


Flashlight

Why so many wildfires? Half of U.S. is a hot, bone-dry burn zone

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© John McColgan, BLM
Famous Bitterroot Valley Wildfire Photo
Did you know that 8 of the 9 worst years for wildfires ever recorded have all been since the year 2000? The western half of the United States just keeps getting hotter and drier, and this is creating ideal conditions for wildfires. The furious wildfire that took the lives of 19 brave firefighters in Yarnell, Arizona on Sunday is just one example of this. That wildfire has already consumed more than 200 buildings in the town of Yarnell, and it now spans nearly 9,000 acres even though more than 400 firefighters are battling it. High winds, record setting heat and bone dry conditions have created a "perfect storm" that firefighters are having a very difficult time contending with. Unfortunately, scientists tell us that things may continue to get even worse for the western half of the country. Most of the territory between the Mississippi River and the west coast seems to be steadily getting drier, and that means it is rapidly being transformed into an intensely hot, bone dry burn zone.

Comment: Drought is certainly one factor, but then, what's causing the extreme drought?

Reign of Fire: Meteorites, Wildfires, Planetary Chaos and the Sixth Extinction


Phoenix

Wildfires heat up the Arctic as climate change frazzles the north of Siberia

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© NASA
'The fires are burning in an unusual area. Most summer wildfires in Siberia occur south of the 57 degrees North latitude line, along the southern edge of the taiga. The July 2013 fires are significantly north of that, raging in woodlands near the 65 degrees North line'.
This unique summer for Northern Siberians brings Mediterranean temperatures but also 'out of control' blazes. Norilsk - one of Russia's coldest cities - basked in temperatures of 33C, as locals stripped off to catch a genuine Arctic tan, as we reported earlier.

As NASA noted, the cause was a 'blocking high' - a persistent high pressure weather pattern over the Russian Arctic.

For a few glorious summer days, the temperatures doubled from an average of 16C, but this also dried the land and led to wildfires, for example in the mainly Arctic autonomous district of Yamal-Nenets.

'The fires are burning in an unusual area. Most summer wildfires in Siberia occur south of the 57 degrees North latitude line, along the southern edge of the taiga. The July 2013 fires are significantly north of that, raging in woodlands near the 65 degrees North line,' said one report.

'High temperatures play an important role in promoting wildfires.

'Warm fuels burn more readily than cooler fuels because less energy is required to raise their temperature to the point of ignition. With temperatures soaring in northern Russia, it was easier for previously active fires to continue burning and for lightning to spark new ones.'