What’s worse than sitting in traffic? Sitting in traffic and being attacked by flames from a wildfire that forces you to flee from your car to escape from being burned alive.
This 3,500-acre fire, in the juncture of the San Bernadino and San Gabriel mountain ranges of southern California, destroyed multiple houses and made its way onto the busy freeway where many drivers had to leave their cars as the flames were faster than the stand-still traffic. Things were so bad, the entire town of Baldy Mesa had to evacuate.
When the fire forced its way onto I-15 near Cajon Pass, drivers on the main connector between Los Angeles and Las Vegas had to abandon their cars and trucks to make their way up a nearby hill. Once the flames passed, they returned to what seemed like a scene “out of The Walking Dead,” one person at the scene said. It burned hot enough to melt the sidewalls of one tractor-trailer and turn many cars into burnt shells.
Wow… #NorthFire leaves charred/wrecked cars in its wake pic.twitter.com/CP9y8OHuAx
— Tom (T.J.) Wait (@CBSLATom) July 18, 2015
Even though the North Fire calmed overnight on Friday, it is still only 5% contained. Thankfully, that little let up freed firefighting resources to tackle a another blaze that threatened a large group of campers nearby, the Associated Press reported.
Up close view of stranded drivers evacuating #northfire area. Pic from Barbara LaRosa. @News3LV pic.twitter.com/w0or3bm83m
— Ryan Goodman (@RyanNews3LV) July 18, 2015
California used to only have seasonal fires, now they are blazing in sooner and in higher frequency than in years past. By April this year there had already been 850 fires in the state, which is a 70% increase above the historical average. It also started months before the typical start of wildfire season in California. Previously winter months yielded snow and skiing in the foothills of California’s mountain ranges, now they bring raging fires like the one that engulfed 60 homes in the Sierra Nevadas in February.
Climate change has been named by scientists as the main culprit behind these increases in fires. Severe drought in the Western U.S. has deprived the high desert mountains of their usual moisture. Without significant snowfall in the winter months, there is no high-elevation snowpack to melt in spring and recharge the ecosystem’s water table. Climate science predicts that all manner of extreme weather, including wildfires, will become increasingly common as carbon emissions alter the planet’s natural cycles.
Crews that fight wildfires usually fill aerial dousing devices from high-mountain ponds, but those ponds are dry now. According to scientific measures of soil moisture, it’s been 1,200 years since California experienced a drought this severe. Even though droughts are cyclical, scientists believe the severity of California’s current condition is driven by man-made climate change.