Tinderbox California: Drought, Dry Soil Cover 100% of State

(Bloomberg) -- Drought and dry soil conditions widened to 100 percent of flame-whipped California from 26 percent a year earlier, providing tinder for this month’s Camp Fire conflagration -- one of the deadliest wildfires in U.S. history, according to data for the week ended Nov. 13.

Tinderbox California: Drought, Dry Soil Cover 100% of State

As of 7 a.m. local time, fire crews recovered the remains of 71 people from the Camp Fire disaster zone, according to the CalFire firefighting agency. That would make it the sixth deadliest U.S. wildfire, based on historical data compiled by Bloomberg. A year earlier, in October 2017, California wildfires killed more than 40 people.

Drought and wildfire risk loom large beyond California. Across the U.S. today, almost 45 million homes “abut or intermingle” with wild land, according to the National Fire Protection Association in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Tinderbox California: Drought, Dry Soil Cover 100% of State

Lessons of the past are often forgotten. Following is a list of the deadliest U.S. wildfires:

  • Peshtigo, Wisconsin, Oct. 8, 1871
    • At least 1,200 dead
    • Peshtigo was a sawmill town. Nearly every building was timber-framed and the roads were covered in saw dust. An estimated 2 billion trees fueled the wind-driven flames across the region. Coincidentally, the Peshtigo fire broke out on the eve of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
  • Cloquet-Mooselake, Minnesota, Oct. 12, 1918
    • 453 dead. Scraps and debris from timber industry’s slash cutting fed inferno.
  • Hinckley, Minnesota, Sept. 1, 1894
    • More than 400 dead. Drought across Upper Midwest left region vulnerable.
  • Thumb Fire, Michigan, September 1881
    • At least 125 dead. Hurricane-like winds; ash from the blaze obscured sunlight as far away as the Atlantic seaboard.
  • Idaho, Montana, Washington, August 1910
    • 87 dead, including 78 firefighters. The outbreak of fires engulfed newly designated national forests in three states.

See more:

  • Latest incidents in California

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