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More Than Half Of U.S. Firefighters Battling Wildfires Are In California

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Flames and smoke overtake a tree in Fairfield, California on August 19, 2020 (Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)
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There are currently more than 560 wildfires devastating large swaths of California, two of which now qualify for the top ten list of largest fires in state history. Both of those are less than 15% contained.

An exceptionally bad situation made possible by climate change — and more than our emergency response infrastructure can handle.

Randy Moore, regional forester with the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region, said:

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“The resources are stretched to the limit. Crews, engines, dozers, water tenders, helicopters. They’re all working existing fires or are on mandatory rest periods."

Cal Fire, the state’s fire fighting agency, said that 96% of all their engines are in use and that nearly all of the aircraft in the western U.S. used to fight wildfires are booked.

Roughly 13,500 of the 22,000 firefighters battling wildfires across the U.S. right now are in CA.

“We’ve requested assistance of firefighting resources from outside of California, however, when the nation is on [preparedness level five] the availability of resources is really limited, and often committed to fires in other states,” said Moore.

That means they may not get all the help they need, even as the number of new wildfires grows.

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As such, the focus for many incident management teams has shifted primarily towards saving lives and infrastructure, with little hope of stopping multiple blazes from consuming more and more of our hallowed forests.

Unrelenting heat, unrelenting wildfires, and an unrelenting pandemic is leaving firefighters fatigued. And, like many Californians, they’re burned out.

A scary prospect given that what’s usually the worst of our wildfire season - when the Santa Ana winds start blowing — has yet to arrive.

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