“It was a successful day for the planes and firefighters resulting in minimal fire growth,” Cal Fire said Monday evening, adding, “Crews continue to build control lines and extinguish fires. hot spots along existing lines”.
But difficult terrain and abundant dry vegetation fueling the fire have complicated efforts to curb its growth, Cal Fire spokesman Capt. Keith Wade told CNN on Monday.
“The footprint here, the area of fuels available to burn when the fire starts, and the topography available – the canyons, the drainages – the wind flowing through those areas, can make the fire behave erratically and it can explode. .. the ferocity of this fire can be intense at times,” Wade said.
There have been 23 wildfires in California so far this month, according to Cal Fire, but only three have exceeded 500 acres. No one came close to the massive destruction of the Oak Fire, in part because of extremely dry conditions in the area, Wade said.
“I think the real difference firefighters feel on this one is how dry everything is, it has certainly been (drier) over the years,” he said. “We’ve noticed there seems to be less precipitation, less humidity and the available fuel load is definitely there.”
The rapid growth of the blaze has also made evacuation efforts more difficult, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jon Heggie told CNN on Monday, noting that authorities and law enforcement were doing their best. to notify residents when they were due to leave.
“The reality is it’s moving so fast, it doesn’t give people a lot of time and sometimes they’re going to have to evacuate with the shirts on their backs,” Heggie said.
Incremental progress by fire crews has allowed officials to reduce evacuation orders in some areas to fire advisories, Cal Fire said.
Heggie attributed the “speed and intensity” of the Oak Fire to the state’s prolonged drought and human-caused climate change.
“What I can tell you is that this is a direct result of what climate change is,” he said. “You can’t have a 10-year drought in California and expect things to be the same. And we’re now paying the price for that 10-year drought and climate change.”
“That dead fuel that’s resulted from that climate change and that drought is what’s driving them, what we now call ‘mega fires,'” Heggie said.
The report suggests it’s time we “learn to live with fire”, urging authorities and policy makers to work with local communities to use indigenous knowledge and invest in planning and prevention efforts.
CNN’s Poppy Harlow, Taylor Romine, Stella Chan, Sara Smart and Rachel Ramirez contributed to this report.