In California, the death toll from the wildfires burning statewide has risen to 23 people, with hundreds more still missing. The nearly two dozen fires have consumed more than 170,000 acres, destroyed thousands of structures and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.
More than 8,000 firefighters are currently battling the blazes, working up to 80 hours straight. Among them are prisoners, who are working for as little as a $1 a day. The firefighters have more than 500 fire engines, 73 helicopters and 30 airplanes—yet the uncontrollable fires are still spreading. Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said, “These fires are literally just burning faster than firefighters can run.” This is Chief Pimlott.
Fire Chief Ken Pimlott: “We are still impacted by five years of drought. With the significant rain that we had last winter, those effects are gone of that moisture, and we are literally looking at explosive vegetation. These fires are burning actively during the day and at night, when one would expect a fire to subside. And make no mistake: This is a serious, critical, catastrophic event.”
Some of the most destructive fires are in Sonoma County, where officials are investigating Pacific Gas and Electric Company power lines as the potential source of the fire. On Sunday night, as the fires began, there were multiple reports of downed power lines and exploding electrical transformers. Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s failure to properly maintain its power lines has sparked fires in the past, including the 2015 Butte fire that killed two people.