¿The world is on fire?

Fires in California and in the Iberian Peninsula have killed more than 80 people, making this season one of the worst in history

¿The world is on fire?

Leer en Español: ¿El mundo en llamas?

Fires in California, United States have spread rapidly due to changing winds and have forced thousands of Californians to evacuate their homes. More than 10,000 firefighters, backed up by tanks, helicopters, and airplanes, are battling the 16 most important fires that have already killed 41 people, mostly in northern San Francisco. There are more than 86,000 hectares that have been consumed, an area larger than the city of New York.

It is expected, unfortunately, that the death toll rises as there are still 235 people missing and only when it is safe to check the homes, will they be able to do a total calculation of the affected, state officials affirmed.

"This is really one of the worst tragedies that California has faced; the devastation is incredible, it's a horror no one can imagine," said California Gov. Jerry Brown on a visit to Santa Rosa, one of the most affected places.

The fires have destroyed nearly 5,700 buildings, reducing the affected area to ashes. The number of deaths have exceeded the toll of 29 people who died in the Griffith Park incident in 1933 in Los Angeles, which had been listed as the worst fire in history.

At least a dozen wine cellars in the Napa Valley and Sonoma County have been damaged or destroyed, causing the wine industry and tourism to be radically affected.

However, since the winds have weakened over the weekend, firefighters have advanced in the containment of fires. However, the high temperatures and dry conditions that fuel the fires have remained which makes it difficult to completely extinguish the flames.

On the other side of the world, in the Iberian Peninsula, 36 people died in various forest fires in Portugal and three others in Spain. Firefighters are currently fighting against 50 fires in Portugal and a similar number in Spain. The Portuguese government requested international aid and declared a state of emergency in the territory north of the Tagus River.

Just like in the United States, fires have been triggered by the unusually hot summer and the strong winds that autumn brought.

The Portuguese opposition and the media have strongly criticized the government for not avoiding this new wave of fires since last year’s killed 64 people. "We are aware that the country wants results from us and we are running against time after decades of negligence," Antonio Costa, Portuguese Prime Minister, affirmed during a news conference.

Interior Minister, Constanca Urbano de Sousa, said that climate change is one of the main culprits. "We are facing new conditions. In an era of climate change, these disasters are becoming a reality around the world", the Minister was referring to the situation in California.

In Spain, the region of Galicia has been the most affected and for the authorities the fires have been deliberately caused. Spanish Interior Minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, said some of the culprits have already been identified and it is a matter of time for them to be persecuted by law.

For the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in the United States, the number of hectares burned is increasing and there has been no de facto solution to counteract the situation. Stanford researcher Noah Diffenbaugh said that "natural phenomena are intensifying by asserting the consequences of climate change, it is a situation that cannot be treated as a myth, fires hurricanes are a reality that are demonstrating". Diffenbaugh has been a harsh critic of Donald Trump for his decision to abandon the Paris Accord, and, in his research, he has been emphatic in demonstrating that climate change will continue to bring destruction unless a change is made to the environmental policies around the world.


Latin American Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto