We’ll start with the good news: Rainfall has brought relief to firefighters battling the Mosquito fire, California’s biggest blaze of the year. Showers that began on Sunday have allowed firefighters to roughly double the containment of the 76,000-acre fire, which erupted west of Lake Tahoe during a record-breaking heat wave.
Now for the bad news: The storms have raised the risk of flash floods in the sheer, muddy hills damaged by fire. Weather officials have warned that people who live near the Mosquito burn scar should watch for flooding through the end of the day.
“You have some areas where the vegetation is completely burned away off the side of a hill,” Scott McLean, a Cal Fire spokesman, said. “You get this moisture coming down, it’s going to loosen up that soil, because there’s nothing to hold the soil in place.”
This one-two punch from Mother Nature has become a familiar story in California. This month, a tropical storm hit Riverside County in the midst of the enormous Fairview fire (now almost entirely contained), bringing the possibility of mudslides. In 2018, at least 21 people were killed by sudden flooding and mudslides following the Thomas fire in Santa Barbara County. In 2019, heavy rain in Marin County led to mudslides in communities that had recently been scorched by wildfires.
Still, the rainfall around the Mosquito fire is largely welcome, McLean said. Firefighters had been struggling to control the blaze over the past two weeks, and its unpredictable behavior was an illustration of the increased danger and volatility of wildfires during a time of severe heat and drought.
On the second day of the Mosquito fire, bone-dry vegetation and treacherous terrain threatened to triple the size of the blaze in a single afternoon, despite an all-out effort to contain it. Then, last week, just as officials started to feel as if they were gaining the upper hand, a spot fire sparked at the bottom of a steep canyon and raced upward into the community of Foresthill, destroying buildings before firefighters could beat it back.
The incidents demonstrated a new, uncomfortable reality in today’s era of parched, sweltering California summers: Even a perfect firefighting response can fall short, and firefighters are now sometimes at the mercy of the weather.
They have had to adjust their tactics as a result. With the Mosquito fire, they have shifted at times from directly attacking the fire to mitigating its spread by burning or destroying the vegetation it uses for fuel, then tackling it when conditions are better.
“When I started fighting fires, the way you did it was you threw everything you had at it,” said Rob Scott, a fire behavior analyst with the U.S. Forest Service. “Now, there’s just so much fire and it’s so intense that you need to adopt strategies that are a little different.”
As of Tuesday morning, with the help of rain showers, the Mosquito fire was 39 percent contained, a figure that is expected to increase over the next few days.
But the fire won’t be extinguished by Thursday, when temperatures in the region are expected to start warming again and will continue to do so through next week, McLean said. That means the land and vegetation will begin to dry out again, and within the fire’s perimeter, new hot spots could emerge.
What you get
For $2.5 million: A 1905 bungalow in Berkeley designed by the architect Julia Morgan, a three-bedroom ranch house in Los Angeles and a midcentury-modern home in Cupertino.
What we’re eating
Among the 50 places that made The New York Times’s list of best restaurants in America, six are in California.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Patti Rose, who lives in McKinleyville. Patti recommends a visit to the Redwood Coast:
“My favorite place to visit is the Arcata Community Forest. It is sustainably logged, and it offers unbelievable vistas and trails that are easy to navigate (or not, if you are a hardy hiker). It is a great place to let the kids go and offers them lots to see, do and learn.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected] We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
It’s almost fall. What’s your favorite part of the season in California? What are the best fall activities in your corner of the state?
Email us at [email protected] with your stories, memories and recommendations.
And before you go, some good news
Two California scorpion species that seem to have crawled under the radar for tens of thousands of years have finally been discovered — by two teenagers in the Bay Area.
Prakrit Jain of Los Altos and Harper Forbes of Sunnyvale traveled to dry lakes in California last year to collect scorpion specimens using a black light. They found not one, but two eight-legged species that had never been documented before.
“These kids can find anything,” said Lauren Esposito, an arachnologist at the California Academy of Sciences who collaborated with Jain and Forbes. “You set them out in a landscape and they’re like, ‘Here’s every species of snake, here’s every scorpion, every butterfly,’ and it’s kind of incredible.”
Read more from The Guardian.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.
Steven Moity and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].
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Source: The New York Times