Sand Fire grows overnight to 35,000 acres

sand-fire-at-35000.jpgThe Sand Fire continues to burn mostly out of control in the Angeles National Forest and the communities along Highway 14 east of Santa Clarita. A new flyover to take infrared readings puts the estimated acreage burned at 35,170, an increase of about 2,000 acres overnight and 13,136 acres in 24 hours.

As of last night, officials had found one body burned to death in a car and counted 18 structures destroyed. Evacuations applied in Sand Canyon and Placerita Canyon and in the area around Little Tujunga Canyon. Some of the animals at Wildlife Waystation were moved to safety.

Officials have described how this fire spread faster and burned hotter than it would have in previous years due to the brush being dried out from years of drought-level rain and snowfall and higher than normal temperatures. Writing at Pacific Standard, Eric Holthaus says "what’s burning right now is not a normal fire."

“The fire behavior was some of the most extreme I’ve seen in the Los Angeles area in my career,” says Stuart Palley, a wildfire photographer based in Southern California. “The fire was running all over the place. … It was incredible to see.” There were multiple reports of flames 50 to 100 feet high on Saturday, which is unusual for fires in the region....

We’re now in the heart of Southern California’s annual six-month dry season, but the drought has made this summer’s heat and fire risk worse — wildfire season is essentially year-round now. The last below-normal temperature day in Los Angeles was June 14, and high temperatures near the fire are expected to remain near the 100-degree mark, slightly above normal, until at least Friday. That means firefighters won’t catch much of a break from the weather all this week....

Even if rainfall amounts don’t change in the future, drought and wildfire severity likely will because warmer temperatures are more efficient at evaporating what little moisture does fall. That, according to scientists, means California’s risk of a mega-drought — spanning decades or more — is, or will be soon, the highest it’s been in millennia.

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