Live Updates: California Wildfires



California-fires
A fireman keeps down hotspots near houses during a wildfire May 14, 2014 in San Marcos, California. About 500 acres have burned in the San Marcos blaze, fueled by record heat, high winds and dry conditions.

Fueled by record heat, high winds and drought conditions, at least nine wildfires are burning in California, destroying several homes and forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents.
Mashable will update this story throughout the day with the latest news...

Live map of the wildfires

Live video stream



California stands out as a global hot spot

12:52 p.m. / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

This map of modeled global surface temperature departures from average shows that California, and indeed the entire West Coast of the U.S., are much warmer than normal on Thursday. It stands out as one of the hottest areas of the Northern Hemisphere, although not as unusually warm as parts of Russia. 

Temperature departures from average as projected by the GFS computer model for May 15, 2014. Credit: climatereanalyzer.org

Today is the hottest day of the heat wave in the San Diego area

12:34 p.m. / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

The National Weather Service forecast office in San Diego issued a forecast discussion on Thursday morning (Pacific Time) saying that today will be the hottest day of the week, although the winds will be lighter than they were on Wednesday, when the wildfires first ignited and spread quickly.


Here is what the NWS said. Note that the ALL-CAPS format is from the original discussion:

WE EXPECT TODAY TO BE THE HOTTEST DAY 
OF THE WEEK.
..WITH WIDESPREAD DAY-TIME HIGH TEMPERATURES IN THE 
UPPER 90S TO NEAR 105 IN THE COASTAL AND VALLEY AREAS.
 EVEN THOUGH 
SANTA ANA WINDS WILL BE WEAKER TODAY.
..WITH A SEA-BREEZE LIKELY 
DEVELOPING THIS AFTERNOON FOR THE COAST AND WESTERN VALLEYS.
..IT 
WILL LIKELY NOT DO MUCH TO STOP THE RECORD HEAT FOR TODAY.
 
THUS.
..THE HEAT ADVISORIES FOR THE COAST AND VALLEY AREAS CONTINUE 
THROUGH 6 PM TODAY.


California has had driest start to the year on record

12:07 p.m. ET / March 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman
A wildfire burns along the hillside on Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in San Marcos, Calif. Flames engulfed suburban homes and shot up along canyon ridges in one of the worst of several blazes that broke out Wednesday in Southern California during a second day of a sweltering heat wave, taxing fire crews who fear the scattered fires mark only the beginning of a long wildfire season. (AP Photo)

Jake Crouch of the National Climatic Data Center told Mashable that the extreme heat is both aggravated by, and in turn worsens, the drought in a feedback loop. Since the soils are dry, more of the sun's energy goes into heating, rather than evaporating moisture.This has helped make this heat wave so significant. It has also raised the wildfire risks.

California has had its driest start to the year on record, which follows its driest calendar year. There is virtually no prospect of significant, drought-busting rain in southern California until the October/November timeframe, scientists said.

Here is what the California drought looks like:
U.S. Drought Monitor released on March 15, 2014. Extreme drought conditions are affected southern California, with exceptional drought in south central parts of the state. 

Wildfires seen from space

11:31 a.m. ET / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a high-resolution satellite image of the California fires and their smoke plumes. 

California Wildfires seen from the Suomi-NPP satellite's VIIRS instrument. Fires are also occurring along Mexico's Baja Peninsula. Credit: NOAA/NASA.

Fires are rare for May, and linked to intense drought

11:20 a.m. ET / May 15, 2014

A house stands on a hillside almost totally charred by a wildfire May 14, 2014 in San Marcos, California. About 500 acres have burned in the San Marcos blaze, fueled by record heat, high winds and dry conditions. At least four other fires advanced in nearby communities. (Photo by Bill Wechter/Getty Images)

According to NBC News, Carlsbad Fire Chief Michael Davis said the fire event is unprecedented in his career, and the fires are being treated as suspicious until their cause is found. 

San Diego Fire Chief Javier Mainar said the unusual May heat and intense drought is a bad sign for the rest of the wildfire season. State fire officials have expressed similar thoughts.


"It is pretty amazing to see these in May," Mainar said, according to NBC and AP reports."We certainly have seen climate change and the impact of climate change. My understanding from Cal Fire is that we've seen twice the number of wildfire starts in the state of California as we typically see this time of year."

The California drought, which is the worst to affect the state in decades if not longer, worsened in the past week, according to new drought data the federal government released on Thursday morning. The entire state is now in moderate drought or worse, with about 25% of the state classified as being in “exceptional drought,” which is the worst category in the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Wildfires continue to burn

10:44 a.m. ET / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

At least three homes were destroyed in San Marcos, California, near the Poinsettia Fire in Carlsbad, California, which caused officials to evacuate California State University at San Marcos. 


According to NBC San Diego, the university decided to cancel its commencement ceremonies on Friday and Saturday due to safety concerns.

According to Cal Fire, the Cocos Fire has burned 700 acres and was 0% contained as of Thursday morning. The fire is moving south, the agency said.

The Highway Fire in the Deer Springs region has burned 600 acres and was 5% contained, Cal Fire reported.


The Tomahawk Fire near the Camp Pendleton Marine Base has burned 6,000 acres, as of Wednesday evening, Cal Fire reported. The fire was about 20% contained at that time. 

Fires were also burning near Los Angeles, including one in Anaheim and another in Long Beach.

Another day of extreme fire in California

10:40 a.m. ET / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

Residents photograph the burning ruins of their home that was destroyed in the Poinsettia fire, one of nine wildfires fueled by wind and record temperatures that erupted in San Diego County throughout the day, on May 14, 2014 in Carlsbad, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Ominously, Thursday is predicted to be even hotter than Wednesday was, with all-time May high temperature records within reach in Los Angeles and San Diego. 

On Wednesday, Oxnard and Camarillo, California, set all-time high temperature records with highs of 102 degrees Fahrenheit at both locations.


These were the earliest 100-degree days on record in these locations by 28 days. May is typically a much cooler month, with daytime highs in the mid-to-upper 70s.

The National Weather Service in Los Angeles warned Thursday morning of continued record heat and high fire danger:

“Thursday will likely bring more record heat to the warmest coastal/valley locations with highs climbing into the mid 90s to 103 degrees. The combination of hot temperatures, gusty Santa Ana winds and widespread single-digit humidity will bring an extended period of dangerous fire weather conditions to much of Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.




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