California: Gender reveal party sparks fire that burned 7,000 acres of land

Wednesday, 09 Sep, 2020

The fire started on Saturday morning at El Ranch Dorado Park, a rugged natural area popular with hikers and dog owners.

Wildfires have burned more than 2 million acres in California this year, setting a state record even as crews battled dozens of growing blazes Monday in sweltering temperatures.

The blaze, growing under "extreme weather conditions", had devoured almost 79,000 acres (32,000 hectares) of land, while a cause remained under investigation, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) said in a statement.

In the Cal Fire press release, officials urged the public to remember that "it doesn't take much to start a wildfire".

California governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday declared a state of emergency for five counties affected by the Creek, El Dorado and Valley fires. There have been eight fire deaths and almost 3,300 structures destroyed.

The record two million acres destroyed was hit as the wildfire season still has roughly two months to go in the most populous USA state and as thousands of firefighters were battling flames during a scorching heatwave.

The fire has since spread north to Yucaipa Ridge, prompting evacuation orders to be enforced on Oak Glen, Yucaipa Ridge, Mountain Home Village, and Forest Falls.

Cal Fire Capt. Bennet Milloy told The Desert Sun that no arrests have been made so far, although a district attorney could file charges depending on the extent of property damage and injuries caused by the fire. This is due to dry vegetation and steep terrain, as well as the ongoing heatwave.

"Due to the number of fires across California and the West, firefighting resources are in short supply", an official incident report stated.

The most striking thing about the record is how early it was set, with the most risky part of the year ahead, said Lynne Tolmachoff, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

Earlier, on Sunday, over 200 people who were trapped in fires in northern California were airlifted with the help of helicopters by the California National Guard.

Creek Fire in Fresno County and Madera County has charred 73,278 acres, and threatens more communities as well as recreation areas like Shaver and Bass lakes, and Yosemite National Park.

The state has seen extreme temperatures recently, with Los Angeles County recording its highest ever temperature of 49.4 degrees on Sunday.

Temperatures reaching more than 43C were forecast for the Los Angeles area today.

As of Monday night, the barely contained fire had grown into a monster that has already burned through almost 10,000 acres and forced more than 20,000 people to evacuate. The heat had driven up power use in the state.

A fire in the Japatul Valley southeast of Alpine has burned more than 9,850 acres and destroyed at least 11 structures in addition to 25 outbuildings.