Meteorologist at Weather Underground, background in fire weather research. Twitter: @WunderKari
By: Kari Kiefer , 4:19 AM GMT on August 21, 2012
California saw the worst fire year in recent history in 2008 with a total of 5,812 fires reported and 1,339,839 acres burned. In comparison, 2012 looks like it has a good chance to beat this record as drought conditions allowed for fires to start earlier than usual.
As of August 19th, 2012, a total of 5,759 fires have been reported across California, burning a total of 540,422 acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).
Monsoonal moisture moved in from the Southwestern US and brought thunderstorm activity to California over the past week. Dry lightning developed in these areas due to prevailing hot and dry surface conditions, sparking several fires across the Sierras and northern California. As of today, August 20th, 2012, NIFC reported a total of 38 new fires, 1 new large fire, and 13 large fires remain uncontained.
Check out wundermap with the active fire layer turned on to see all the fire perimeters.
The largest fire is in northeastern California is the Rush Fire. The fire has consumed 270,683 acres, has grown by 38,683 acres in the past 24 hours, and is 50% contained. Road closures and evacuations are in effect. This fire threatens a power plant as well as the Sierra Army Depot. Check out inciweb.org for more info on the Rush Fire.
The second largest fire in California is currently the Chips Fire. It has burned 47,040 acres, grown by 2,247 acres in the past 24 hours, and is 32% contained. Road closures and evacuations are in effect as communities and power lines are threatened. This fire started 2 miles northwest of Belden, CA in Las Plumas National Forest. The famous Pacific Crest Trail goes right through Las Plumas, and Belden is a main resupply location for many through-hikers. Hikers have evacuated and are being warned if they are north or south of this area. Check out inciweb.org for more info on the Chips Fire.
The third largest fire in California is the Ponderosa Fire, which started Saturday morning from dry lightning. It has burned 12,000 acres and has grown by 7,000 acres in the past 24 hours. It is currently 5% contained and is located two miles east of Manton, CA. Road closures and evacuations are in effect as communities, natural gas lines, and power lines are threatened. This incident is not yet in the inciweb.org database, but will be soon.
Here is a shot from the MODIS satellite yesterday afternoon, showing several smoke plumes from fires in northern California.
And unfortunately, there is no relief in sight for northeastern California as a Red Flag warning has been issued due dry conditions and gusty winds forecast tomorrow afternoon.
The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.