September 1st, 2009

Wildfires in California

Posted at 8:36 AM ET

new-small-california-wildfiresSix wildfires, fuelled by hot temperatures and extremely dry brush that has not burned in more than 40 years, have forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes in parts of California over the past week. The most threatening blaze, the Station Fire, is located about 12 miles (20 kilometers) north of central Los Angeles. Thousands of residents have fled the flames, and some 6,600 homes are under mandatory evacuation orders. Dozens of houses have reportedly been destroyed, and officials said they expect the number to grow. The wildfires have been raging since August 21, 2009, burning more than 115,000 acres of land. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger consequently declared a state of emergency in four counties on August 31. More than 3,600 firefighters using helicopters, air tankers and engines have been deployed to battle the flames. Two firefighters died on August 30 after their vehicle was overrun by flames.

Governor Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in the counties of Los Angeles, Placer, Monterey and Mariposa in response to the Station Fire, the Morris Fire, the 49 Fire, the Oak Glen Fire and the Big Meadow Fire. The Station Fire is located approximately 1.5 miles (3 kilometers) north of USFS Angeles Crest Station in Los Angeles County. Fuelled by hot weather and dense and dry brush, the blaze doubled in size in a day. The fire is threatening around 12,500 buildings (10,000 homes, 500 businesses and 2,000 other structures) and a key communication centre. Although the lack of Santa Ana winds is currently limiting the fire’s rate of spread (winds are currently around 10 mph in the area), officials warn the blaze’s size could double again over the coming days.

The Station Fire broke out late on August 26 and has forced 10,000 people to evacuate their homes. More than 105,000 acres of land has been burnt in Los Angeles County and around 70 buildings have been destroyed (including 53 in La Crescenta), according to reports. The Station Fire continues to burn within the Angeles National Forest and near the affluent communities of La Canada-Flintridge, La Crescenta, Acton, Soledad Canyon, Pasadena and Glendale, officials said. The fire is also threatening Mount Wilson, a key communications centre housing transmitters for 20 Los Angeles TV stations, several radio stations and mobile phone providers. The center also houses two giant telescopes. Firefighters are on the mountain clearing brush and spraying fire retardant in preparation for the fires, which are approaching the transmitters. Officials say the area’s steep hills are making it difficult for the firefighters.

california-wildfires

Hazard data illustrated in the CAT-i map was taken from i-aXs®, Guy Carpenter’s web-based risk management platform. i-aXs users can view impacted areas on any map as well as see how their portfolios were affected. Please contact your broker or Instrat® representative for assistance or go to www.i-axs.info for further information.

The Station Fire spread rapidly on August 31, threatening homes in Sunland-Tujunga and approaching Santa Clarita. The fire has grown to a large size, stretching up to 25 miles (40 kilometers) from east to west and 18 miles (30 kilometers) from north to south, according to reports. Mandatory evacuations have been issued for Glendale, the Juniper Hills Area, Tujunga, La Crecenta and some residences of Rockdell Street and Faircrest Drive, affecting around 10,000 people and 6,600 homes. Governor Schwarzenegger said 3,650 firefighters were working to keep the flames away from other built-up areas. Fire officials said the fire is currently about 5 percent contained and warned it could take up to two weeks to bring the blaze under control.

Elsewhere in California, the 49 Fire has burned nearly 340 acres in Placer County. The blaze broke out on 30 August to the northeast of the state capital, Sacramento, and quickly spread through the town of Auburn, destroying around 50 homes and 10 commercial buildings. Multiple structures remain threatened by the fire, which is currently 70 percent contained. In San Bernardino County, meanwhile, the Oak Glen Fire threatens thousands of homes. As of 1 September, the fire had burnt more than 1,000 acres of land, damaged one home and was 25 percent contained. The three other fires currently active in California (Morris, Big Meadow and Red Rock) are not threatening homes or businesses at present, according to fire officials.

Please see the list below for details on the significant fires that have burned so far in August and September 2009 in California:

Station Fire (Los Angeles County)

  • Burned 105,296 acres 
  • Destroyed around 70 structures
  • Threatening 12,500 buildings
  • Five percent contained

49 Fire (Placer County)

  • Burned 340 acres
  • Destroyed 50 residencies and 10 commercial properties
  • Multiple structures are threatened
  • Seventy percent contained

Oak Glen Fire (San Bernardino County)

  • Burned 1,012 acres 
  • Damaged one home
  • Thousands of structures threatened in the area
  • Twenty-five percent contained

Morris Fire (Los Angeles County)

  • Burned 2,168 acres 
  • Ninety-five percent contained

Big Meadow Fire (Mariposa County)

  • Burned 2,168 acres 
  • Ninety-five percent contained

Red Rock Fire (Siskiyou County)

  • Burned 1,37968 acres 
  • Eighty percent contained

Sources: BBC News, CNN News, Associated Press, California Department of Forestry, Associated Press, Agence France Presse, Reuters News, InciWeb, Los Angeles Times

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