As of Tuesday morning, the wildfire had burned 2,200 acres of land across Riverside County in Southern California.
A fast-moving Southern California wildfire has prompted authorities on Tuesday to issue evacuation orders for 4,000 people in Riverside County.
The Highland Fire broke out Monday afternoon near Highlands and Aguanga Ranchos roads, according to the Riverside County Fire Department, which issued an evacuation order for roughly 4,000 people. It nearly doubled in size overnight, fuelled by strong Santa Ana winds – seasonal winds that carry dusk and smoke from wildfires across the deserts and coastal regions of Southern California all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s latest update, the fire had so far burned 2,200 acres (890 hectares) of land and was 0% contained as of Tuesday morning. More than 300 firefighters have been assigned to respond to the blaze.
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service has issued an air quality alert for nearby communities due to the dispersion of windblown dust and smoke from the wildfire.
California – historically a wildfire-prone state – has escaped this year’s fire season “mostly unharmed” thanks to record rainfall – 141% higher than average over the past 12 months – after disastrous seasons, which usually take place between late summer and early autumn, in 2020 and 2021.
In 2020, California experienced its worst wildfire season on record, with 8,600 wildfires which burned 4.3 million acres – more than 4% of the state’s total land area – and claimed 33 lives.
California has been experiencing warmer temperatures and drier seasons, bringing on longer and more intense drought seasons as a result of the changing climate. The conditions that are needed to spark a wildfire are more easily met, thereby also increasing a blaze’s severity once it starts. This is evident by the fact that eight of the 10 largest fires in California history all took place in the last five years.
Scientists project an average 1C temperature increase every year would increase the median burned area by as much as 600% in some types of forests, while other modelling suggests that land burned by wildfire could increase by 30% by 2060 compared to 2011 levels.
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