Fires around the world

By any means wildfire is frightening and destructive, however do take note as it can have bearing on where one lives and in what type of vegetation fuel. Moreover, there are easily things communities can do in advance.

The Essential Ingredients of the Most Destructive Wildfires: Wind and Grass​

From the Cliff Mass Weather Blog
Cliff Mass

When many people think of wildfires, they often first visualize a forest fire.
And when the media and politicians talk of wildfires, they usually hone in on drought and climate change as the cause.
But if one is interested in the wildfires that kill and injure the most people, or wildfires that do the most economic damage, forests and drought are not the key factors.
In reality, it is grass and wind, which can produce rapidly expanding grass/range fires that have resulted in billions of dollars of loss and the deaths of many hundreds of individuals.
As described below, grass/range fires are the main threat to humanity. And there is much we can do to reduce the terrible impacts of these events using the best science, technology, and land management.

Note: The term rangeland includes tallgrass prairies, steppes (shortgrass prairies), desert shrublands, woodlands of small shrubs, savannas, chaparrals, and tundra landscapes. Such vegetation often desiccates during the warm season (or under temporarily dry conditions).Some Examples of Major Grass/Rangeland and Wind Fires
  • The 2023 Maui wildfire in which 60-90 mph winds descended the West Maui mountains and resulted in electrical fires that spread through fields of flammable grasses into Lahaina. Over 100 lost their lives, with billions of dollars of direct and indirect loss.
  • The 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise, California, resulted in 85 deaths and over 16 billion dollars of damage. Strong winds descending the Sierra Nevada caused electrical fires that spread on grass/range vegetation (and some trees) rapidly toward the town, with little warning.
  • The 2022 Marshall Fire, when strong winds descended the Colorado Front Range, pushing a grassfire into Superior Colorado, killing two and destroying over 1000 homes. Damage is estimated to exceed two billion dollars.
  • The September 2020 Malden (WA) Fire, in which powerful northerly winds resulted in sparks from the broken powerline that ignited range vegetation that surged into Malden, destroying most of the town.
  • The October 1991 Tunnel Fire, in which strong easterly flow resulted in a grass/range fire that destroyed nearly 3000 homes and killed 25 near Oakland, CA. 3-5 billion dollars in damage.

The Marshall Fire Burned Through Grass into Superior, CO. Picture courtesy of Tristantech.
The largest fires this spring/summer in Washington State were grass/range fires (see map for eastern WA).

I could provide you with dozens of other examples, but the message is clear: the overwhelming majority of wildfire deaths and the bulk of the economic loss from wildfires are associated with grass/range vegetation and strong winds.
Grass and Range Fires
Grass and range fires occur in light fuels: grasses, small bushes, and the like. They often go through a distinct seasonal cycle: greening up during the cool/wetter winter and then drying out, with the foilage above the surface dying (see picture above).
Grasses and small vegetation (less than 0.25 inches) are 1-hr fuels, which means they can dry out within roughly an hour. Small bushes are 10-hr fuels.
The fact that such vegetation can dry out very quickly under the right conditions (no precipitation, lower humidity, strong winds), means the previous weather/climate conditions are of minimal importance.
Even if it rained the day before, they can rapidly dry out to support fire. Particularly, with strong, dry winds, these light fuels will be ready to burn quickly. So prior “drought” in the weeks or months before is pretty much immaterial.
What can increase the risk of range and grass fires is above-normal precipitation during the previous spring and winter, which results in more bountiful grass growth. Thus, drought the previous winter would REDUCE wildfire threat, a subtlety absent from most media stories.

Rangeland in Hawaii. Picture courtesy of Aaron Yoshino
Wind and Grass/Rangeland
Wind plays a huge role in grass/rangeland fires. Once the fires are started, strong winds provide huge amounts of oxygen for the fire, and rapidly push the fire forward by moving hot embers and superheated air ahead of the flame front.
Wind can also help dry the light fuels, by greatly enhancing evaporation. Dry winds are particularly good at very quickly drying grass fuels.
This is why strong downslope winds are the absolute worst situation. As the air descends and accelerates down the slope, it is warmed by compression, and the relative humidity plummets.
Thus, many of the great wildfire disasters (Maui, Marshall fire in Colorado, Camp Fire west of the Sierra Nevada) are associated with downslope windstorms.

It is important to note that there is no evidence that winds are increasing or downslope windstorms are becoming more frequeny due to climate change. In fact, the opposite is suggested on the West Coast, where substantial research suggests that warm/dry easterly flow down the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and Cascades will WEAKEN under global warming.
The Grassland/Range Wildfire Situation is Getting Worse–And it is NOT Because of Climate Change
Grass/range wildfires driven by wind have always been serious threats, but deaths and damage from them are increasing. Climate change is not the reason.
First, much of the western U.S. and Hawaii have been invaded by non-native, invasive, and highly flammable grasses. One of the worst is cheatgrass, which is now found extensively around the nation (see map).

In Hawaii, invasive, flammable grasses have invaded agricultural lands that have been abandoned during the past few decades, resulting in huge flammable areas next to densely populated areas (see map below)

But the increase of vast areas of flammable vegetation is only part of the problem.
Increased population has resulted in far more powerlines, which are providing a potent ignition source of fire when winds are strong.
And increasing population near and in grasslands has resulted in hugely increased vulnerability to grass/range fires.
Finally, increasing grassland/range fires also results in increased forest fires, because grassland and forest are often adjacent and intermixed, and grasses/shrubs extend into forest areas. Grass/range fires can move into forest areas, where the fire can ascend into canopies through a variety of ladder fuels.

Dealing with the Threat of Grass/Range Wildfires
There is much we can do to lessen the threat of grass/range wildfires. We can save many lives and greatly lessen the damage from such fires.
But to do so requires that society deals with the real origins of the problem and attack the problem in a rational, science-based way. In this final section, I will describe some approaches that can help.
Use Weather Prediction and Fuels Information Better
During the past decade, the ability of high-resolution weather forecast models to predict the conditions associated with wind-driven grass fires has gotten stunningly good, specific in both time and space. But this valuable information is often not effectively applied
For example, numerical prediction models clearly forecast the extreme winds and low relative humidity associated with the Maui fire (see my previous blog on this). But little of the extreme threat near Lahaina was communicated.
In addition, satellite-based observations coupled with machine learning now provide real-time maps of where range-grass fuels are available in dangerous quantities (see the wonderful USDA Fuelcast site graphic below)

By putting the two data sources together (predicted winds and available dry fuel), we can provide very timely warning of wildfire threats.
Let me be very concrete here. Wildfire Prediction Centers should be established for Hawaii, Alaska, and the lower 48 states to provide such guidance, as well as to interact with local authorities and power companies.
The National Weather Service and other agencies must become much more aggressive in providing specific and timely warnings of this threat.
Deal with the Electrical Infrastructure Problem Through De-Energizing and Hardening Powerlines
Let’s be frank. Many of the most deadly and destructive grass/range fires have been caused by failing powerlines, which cause sparking that easily ignites the “kindling” of dry grass/range vegetation.
In many areas, power infrastructure needs extensive and expensive remediation.
Until we can harden the current power infrastructure, much more aggressive de-energization of powerlines is required. Fortunately, high-resolution weather prediction and knowledge of the state of the surface fuels can allow such power shut-offs to be limited in time and space.

Creating Fire Breaks around Range/Grassland Areas Near Populated Regions, Reducing Grass Load.
Firebreaks can be created near population centers, and grazing animals and mechanical cutting can be used to reduce fuel density
, among other steps.
Improved Construction in Dangerous Areas
As clearly shown by the Maui, Marshal, and Camp Fires, homes and buildings take over as a fuel source as grass/range wildfires reach urban areas. Non-flammable roofs, screens to prevent invasion of firebrands/embers, removing vegetation near buildings, and other steps can make a huge difference. The lone house to survive in Maui was a stark illustration of the ability to reduce risk.

The Bottom Line: Grass/range fires are the major cause of wildfire deaths and economic loss in the U.S. Such fires generally result from seasonally dry fuels and strong winds. Since the dry fuels can be monitored and the winds skillfully predicted, the potential for large and rapidly expanding grass/range wildfires can be forecast in advance with some skill. Climate change has little to do with such grass/range fires. Many steps can be taken to reduce the grass/range wildfire risk.
In ancient times they called him Yahweh, today it is a tornado of fire.

Exodus. 21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.

Dramatic footage captured in Louisiana shows an intense firenado swirling amid the Pirates Cove fire.
Omen or just an accident?

NOW | Lightning strikes the "Cristo Pescador" emblem of faith, causing its destruction in La Concordia de Chiapas, #Mexico (September 09, 2023). #Powerful #Lightning #Fire #Image #Climagram

The sculpture called Christ the Fisherman, located in the municipality of La Concordia, Chiapas, 33 meters high, caught fire on Saturday night as a result of a lightning strike.

Since its construction was completed in 2011, the Cristo de Chiapas has been the largest artistic representation of Christ in the world, and is 62.30 metres [203 ft] tall surpasses the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (32 metres [105 ft] tall).

I would go with omen on that one as the largest and most recent structure of Jesus made of stainless steel and concrete was destroyed right down to its foundations, as so to temper our misplaced ardour... kinf of "we are doing 'it' the wrong way". Besides I think it was really ugly so maybe it's not such a great loss, no offence to anyone.
Allegedly provoked, a serious #ForestFire breaks out in the north of #Cali, #Colombia 🇨🇴
They report more than 100 firefighters mobilized.

Forest fire "out of control" in Cali generates alarm in the population

An "out of control" forest fire is reported today in the north of Cali, Colombia, specifically in Altos de Menga, which can be seen from several parts of the city, such as the hills behind La Campiña and El Bosque neighborhoods.

Tonight, the Attorney General's Office made an urgent call to the National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (UNGRD) to authorize the use of the Bambi Bucket helicopter to control the emergency caused by fire in the hills of Cali.

Out of control: large forest fire in Altos de Menga, north of Cali ►
What happened at the weeding feast, in Iraq, is a real tragedy. You can see how the bride is still under the shock, surely the trauma will last many many years. How sad. But not just for her but for the family. And for the country.


The forest fires in CÓRDOBA are still active and firefighters are working to prevent a major catastrophe – News from Argentina​

The multiple crews of firefighters that were transferred to Carlos Paz to control the forest fires that broke out in that region continue working there because there are still several active outbreaks. While the authorities reported that more than 30 neighbors of the traditional summer town of Córdoba they had to be evacuated this Monday due to the intense smoke generated by the fire that broke out in the mountains.

In the midst of the tense situation in Córdoba, there was a person who was arrested for lighting a fire. While in the towns of Icho Cruz and Tala At least two houses burned.

Claudio Vignetta, secretary of Climate Risk Management, Disasters and Civil Protection, admitted that the situation is very complex. “This is a very active fire where volunteer firefighters from across the region are working.. Here, the fire crossed the route and is heading towards the neighborhood called 400 Homes,” said the official when referring to the outbreak that broke out in Tanti, which affected the Las 400 Homes neighborhood, in Villa Carlos Paz.



A brush fire that erupted Monday in Riverside County scorched more than 1,219 acres, crossed a highway and damaged at least one property, prompting evacuation orders and warnings.

The Highland Fire was listed at 0% containment as of 7 p.m. Monday.

Evacuation orders for Highland Fire in Riverside County | Maps and Updates​

The Highland Fire is burning in Riverside County and has caused authorities to issue evacuation orders in the nearby areas.

The wildfire has grown overnight to 2,200 acres Cal Fire said Tuesday morning Containment of the blaze is at 0%.

The fire broke out near the intersection of Highland Road and Aguanga Ranchos Road in Aguanga around 12:45 p.m. Monday.


Thousands told to flee California fire​

Thousands of people were being told to flee a wildfire spreading in southern California on Tuesday, as strong winds fanned the flames.

Around 5,700 people were urged to leave areas threatened by the blaze, which erupted on Monday around lunchtime and had engulfed 2,200 acres (900 hectares) by the following morning.

The Highland Fire, in the countryside southeast of Los Angeles, has already leapt one highway and destroyed three buildings.

Six other structures were known to have been damaged.

More than 300 firefighters were tackling the flames on the ground, assisted by aircraft that were dropping water on the blaze.

Maggie Cline de la Rosa of Cal Fire in Riverside County told AFP crews were battling strong winds and difficult terrain.

“The biggest issue right now is high winds,” she said.


8 dead, 63 injured in 'super fog' multi-car pileup on Louisiana highway


The crash, involving at least 168 vehicles, occurred on Monday morning as heavy fog conditions severely lowered visibility, according to Louisiana State Police. A long stretch of Interstate 55, a 24-mile-long highway over Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans, is expected to be closed "for the foreseeable future," police said.
The super fog was caused by smoke from marsh fires burning in the region combined with dense fog developing in the area early Monday morning bringing extremely low visibility. In some spots, visibility was near zero, creating dangerous driving conditions.

Super fogs typically form when condensed water vapor mixes with the smoke and moisture released from damp organic material smoldering from a nearby fire, such as brush, leaves and trees, according to the National Weather Service. Visibility can be lowered to less than 10 feet as a result, according to the NWS.

This has been occurring in the region over the past several mornings, with the location of the densest fog and most dangerous conditions varying day to day, forecasts show.
Morning fog is not uncommon this time of the year for the region, but more than 86% of the state is currently battling extreme drought conditions, which is elevating fire danger. This could mean more instances of super fog in the coming days and weeks as cooler temperatures settle in, but the drought and wildfire risk persist.

In addition, devastating drought and wildfire conditions continue to impact Louisiana. More than 60% of the state is now categorized at exceptional drought, the highest category of concern, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Just three months ago, 0% of the state was listed under exceptional drought.
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