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Wed, 21 Feb 2018
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Mount Vesuvius volcano engulfed in smoke as wildfires rage along its slopes in southern Italy

Mount Vesuvius wildfire
© jey1895 / Instagram
A huge blaze has broken out on the slopes of Italy's Mount Vesuvius and near the city of Naples, prompting an evacuation of tourists and local residents for the second time in a week.

The huge pillars of smoke from fires raging through the forests on the slopes of Vesuvius rose to more than 2 kilometers up in the air and were also 2 kilometers wide at the top, AP reports. Clearly visible from Naples, the smoke deceived some people into believing that the volcano was erupting.


Video shows terrifying drive to escape British Colombia wildfire

British Colombia wildfire
© sebboco5 / Instagram
14,000 people have been evacuated in British Colombia.
Evacuees escaping wildfires that have spread across swathes of British Columbia filmed their journey as they drove through roads engulfed by flames. Some 14,000 people have been evacuated as 220 active wildfires rage in the province.

"Oh my goodness, I would go fast," says the passenger in a video uploaded to Twitter by Sally Aitken. Flames billow on the roadside and smoke fills the air as they drive away from Hanceville.

"We drove through this fire last night on Hwy 20 - terrifying! Tall flames on both sides, black smoke, zero visibility for 10km," Aitken said.

Comment: An evacuation alert was also issued for the more than 10,000 residents of Williams Lake last night, with municipal officials warning wind and lightning forecast for tomorrow could push fires towards the city at a "rapid pace."

Kevin Skrepnek, chief information officer with the BC Wildfire Service, says gusty winds and hot, dry conditions are expected to persist throughout the province over the next several days, meaning fire crews will not get a reprieve from the weather. He added "this is verging on unprecedented".


Thousands forced to evacuate as wildfires rage in western US and Canada

wildfire Oroville CA July 2017
© AP / Noah Berger
Firefighters battle a wildfire as it threatens to jump a street near Oroville, Calif., on Saturday, July 8, 2017.
Wildfires barreled across the baking landscape of the western U.S. and Canada, destroying a smattering of homes, forcing thousands to flee and temporarily trapping children and counselors at a California campground.

Here's a look at the wildfires blackening the West.


Two major wildfires in California have sent nearly 8,000 people fleeing to safety.

About 4,000 people evacuated and another 7,400 were told to prepare to leave their homes as fire swept through grassy foothills in the Sierra Nevada, about 60 miles north of Sacramento, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Sunday.

Comment: See also:


Wildfires rage during California's record-breaking heatwave

© AFP Photo/Justin Sullivan
Frefighters train in June 2017 in California
The first major wildfires after the end of California's five-year drought raged across the state Saturday, as it was gripped by a record-breaking heatwave.

Some 3,000 firefighters were battling several blazes with triple-digit temperatures recorded in valleys and inland areas.

A wildfire in the Sierra Nevada foothills north of Sacramento was only two percent contained by early evening and had destroyed 10 homes, scorching 2,000 acres (800 hectares) of forest and sparking evacuations and road closures.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) said five residents and a firefighter had sustained minor injuries.

Meanwhile a blaze that forced evacuations in San Luis Obispo County tripled in size from Saturday morning to 19,000 acres by the evening. Fanned by hot, dry winds, it was just 10 percent contained, CalFire said.

Some 17 wildfires in various states of containment were burning in California Saturday, from the Six Rivers National Forest in the north to the San Bernardino Forest east of Los Angeles.

An excessive heat warning has been extended until 11:00 pm (0600 GMT) for much of southern California, with temperature records being broken across the region.

Comment: From RT:

The wildfires temporarily trapped at least 90 children and some 50 councilors at a local summer camp, Zaniboni said, adding that later the campers had been safely evacuated.

On Saturday, the blaze dubbed the Alamo Fire burned more than 23 square kilometers outside Santa Maria and remained 10 percent contained, Zaniboni added. The Santa Barbara blaze is one of three separate wildfires that have rocked California.

Some 300 residents were to evacuate Santa Barbara and neighboring San Luis Obispo County, AP reported.


B.C. Canada wildfires force province-wide state of emergency

Cache Creek Wildfire
© Darryl Dyck/CP
A wildfire burns on a mountain behind a home in Cache Creek early Saturday morning.
A province-wide state of emergency has been declared in British Columbia after dozens of new wildfires destroyed buildings and forced thousands of people from their homes.

More than 1,800 firefighters were fighting around 200 fires on Saturday, many of which are considered to be out of control. Another 260 firefighters were coming to help from across Canada.

Official province-wide evacuee numbers have not been released; however an estimated 6,000 people had been forced from their homes as of Saturday afternoon, according to the Cariboo Regional District.

Evacuation orders have been issued for the communities of:

Cache Creek
105 Mile House
108 Mile House
150 Mile House


Forest fire out of control in Chernobyl exclusion zone

© ScienceAGoGo
Radiation damage to microbes around the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster has dramatically slowed the decomposition of fallen leaves and other plant matter creating a fire hazard due to wind-borne radioactivity.
A forest fire has erupted in the Chernobyl exclusion zone forests during tree cutting works, according to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine. While a helicopter and two planes were dispatched to the site, the fire is still ongoing.
"At 12:35pm [local time] during technological tree cutting works in the exclusion and obligatory evacuation zone at the territory of Lubyanskoye Forestry, tree residue and the forest bed have caught fire. The fire spread out to an area of some 20 hectares," the State Emergency Service of Ukraine said in a statement.
The emergency service dispatched an Mi-8 helicopter with a water-spraying device and two AN-32P fire planes to the location to provide surveillance and combat the fire. At least 102 firemen and 22 fire engines arrived at the scene, while the Mi-8 dropped water on the fire five times. Despite their efforts, however, the fire even spread somewhat and at 6:29pm local time engulfed 25 hectares of the forest bed, as well as 0.5 hectares of the tree tops, according to the statement.

This is not the first wildfire to break out near the crippled Chernobyl nuclear power station. In 2015, forest and grass fires erupted in the exclusion zone several times with the worst one breaking out in May, when some 400 hectares of forests were engulfed in flames.

Several consecutive fires caused a significant increase in radiation in the exclusion zone. In July 2015, Ukrainian nuclear inspectors registered air contamination with cesium-137 near the settlement of Polesskoye in the Chernobyl zone, or approximately 10 times above permitted levels. Cesium-137 is one of the most dangerous radioactive elements, since it accumulates in the human body and can lead to leukemia.

Comment: According to a research study by the University of South Carolina and the University Paris-Sud in the contaminated area surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear facility, results suggest the rate of plant material decomposition changed after the meltdown. Radiated samples showed less leaf weight loss compared to non-radiated leaves, up to 40%, concluding bacteria and fungi are hindered by radioactive contamination. With reduced microbial decomposing activity, the forest brush and plant matter become a dangerous fire hazard with the ability to redistribute radioactive contamination, via smoke, into populated areas. Prior fires have seen plumes reach the US West Coast, crossing the plains and into Eastern Canada.

Bizarro Earth

Mandatory evacuations ordered for wildfire in San Luis Obispo County, CA

Hill Fire CA 6 2017

Firefighters in San Luis Obispo County made significant gains against a wildfire burning east of Santa Margarita that has forced residents to evacuate about 100 homes, officials said Tuesday. The Hill fire is burning in an area dotted with secluded homes surrounded by hills. Many areas are blanketed in 12-foot high grass and dried-out vegetation, said Chris Elms of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The blaze has scorched about 1,500 acres and was 40% contained Tuesday morning thanks to a dip in temperatures overnight and increased humidity, Elms said. "Last night was about getting in as many resources as we could and taking advantage," Elms said. About 1,200 firefighters are expected to be in the area by the end of Tuesday, Elms said.

The fire is burning in steep terrain and in light vegetation that burns easily and quickly. The flames ran southeast Monday afternoon and destroyed one structure though authorities can't say whether it was a home or smaller building, Elms said.

Bizarro Earth

Arizona's 18,000 acre Goodwin fire forces Mayer to evacuate, closes major road to Prescott

Mayer AZ fire 6 2017
© Tom Tingle/The Republic
Don Sandy (left) watches the Goodwin Fire as seen from his house in the town of Mayer on Tuesday, June 27, 2017. Mayer was later evacuated.

Hundreds of anxious Mayer residents, forced from their homes just hours before by the rapidly spreading Goodwin Fire, gathered at a Prescott Valley high school Tuesday night to get the latest news on the progress of the flames threatening their community. But little of what fire officials said was comforting as erratic winds continued to push flames through tinderbox-dry conditions along rough terrain. By nightfall, the Goodwin Fire had forced Mayer and other areas to evacuate, closed a major road to Prescott and scorched 18,000 acres. It was only 1 percent contained as of Tuesday night.

With that reality, the crowd was reminded of the potential cost of protecting structures, when one official mentioned a looming anniversary of a tragedy that remains all too fresh in the area. Pete Gordon, fire chief for Prescott National Forest, brought up the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died on a hill four years ago June 30 while fighting the Yarnell Hill wildfire, which sparked two days prior.

"They weigh heavy on my mind, and I am sure they weigh heavy on your mind," he told the crowd. "So please understand that while we send firefighters into difficult places, there are places we will not go. We hope you support and appreciate that."

Bizarro Earth

The Utah Wildfire has grown to become the largest active fire in the U.S.

Utah fire june 2017
© George Frey—Getty Images
Smoke billows from a stand of trees near Panguitch, Utah, on June 25, 2017.

Brian Head, UT - The nation's largest wildfire has forced more than 1,500 people from their homes and cabins in a southern Utah mountain area home to a ski town and popular fishing lake. Firefighters battled high winds Monday as they fought a fire that has grown to 72 square miles and burned 13 homes — larger than any other fire in the country now, state emergency managers said.

Some flames reached 100 feet high, while fire crews faced dry, windy conditions Tuesday and a "high potential" for "extreme" fire behavior, officials said late Monday. The estimated firefighting costs now top $7 million for a fire started June 17 near the Brian Head Resort by someone using a torch tool to burn weeds, they said. Investigators know who the culprit is, but have not yet released the person's identity or what charges will be leveled. Crews in California, meanwhile, got a handle on a brush fire that closed a freeway. Arizona firefighters had to ground aircraft due to unauthorized drones over a fire near Flagstaff.


Wildfire closes interstate highway at Rockledge, Florida

I-95 wildfire closure
Smoke from the fire had authorities eventually shut down north and southbound traffic on I-95 between Fiske and 520 Tuesday morning.
The Tucker Fire, triggered by lightning, burned 1,700 acres of land on St. Johns River Water Management District property.