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California Wildfires: Thousands ordered to evacuate; Air quality deteriorates to historic levels

Health officials in Reno, Nevada, have warned residents to stay indoors as smoke from the Caldor Fire, burning east of Sacramento, California, has drifted across state lines and created historically bad air quality.

In California, more than 42,000 residents have been told to evacuate their homes as nine large wildfires burn in the northern part of the state.

The most concerning of those is the Caldor Fire, which has burned 117,704 acres since sparking 10 days ago and is only 9% contained, according to Cal Fire.




A report from Cal Fire on Tuesday said 632 structures have been destroyed by flames and two people have been injured.

More than 2,050 firefighting personnel have been assigned to the blaze, along with 19 helicopters, 211 engines, 48 hand crews and 51 dozers, the report said.

The rash of fires in California prompted Governor Gavin Newsom to request a major disaster declaration from President Joe Biden.



If granted, the presidential major disaster declaration would pave the way to provide assistance for individuals impacted by the fires with housing, unemployment help and counseling, along with medical and legal services. Public assistance for repairs and replacement of schools, roads, utilities would also be included.

In California alone this year, wildfires burned more than 1.59 million acres.

While we are still months away from the peak season, the months of October and November are a time when the state is most vulnerable, sparking concerns that the historic season could get even worse before it ends.

Strong, gusty winds, coupled with low humidity and dry vegetation will create dangerous conditions for any possible spread from new or existing fires, according weather forecasts.

HISTORIC AIR QUALITY

Thick smoke from the raging Caldor Fire turned the sky over Lake Tahoe orange, with the Environmental Protection Agency reporting hazardous air quality in the region.

Nearly 40 miles from Lake Tahoe, the Washoe County Health District in Nevada warned residents that it is seeing the worst air quality it has ever recorded in the region because of smoke from the Caldor Fire burning west of the community.

The county for the first time issued a Stage 3 emergency air quality advisory, saying the average air quality index for fine particles reached 251 on Sunday, which is considered “very unhealthy.”

On Monday, the index number was much worse at 291.




CALIFORNIA BURNING

On Tuesday, Cal Fire said on Twitter that more than 14,000 personnel were battling 12 active large wildfires in the state.

The largest active fires, according to the Cal Fire incident page, include the Dixie Fire, Monument Fire, McFarland Fire and Caldor Fire.

The Dixie Fire, the state’s second-largest wildfire on record, which has been burning for more than a month, has grown so large that its perimeter stretches more than 500 square miles. The fire has swelled to more than 731,000 acres and is now 41% contained.

Two other large fires, the Walker Fire and the French Fire are still growing.