Skip to main content

Nov. 9, 2018: Gabi and Jonah Frank walk on Pacific Coast Highway as the Woolsey Fire threatens their home in Malibu, Calif.

ERIC THAYER/Reuters

The latest

  • At least 77 people are dead in Northern California in what’s become the deadliest and most destructive fire on record in the state. 
  • About 1,000 names remain on a list of people unaccounted for more than a week after the so-called Camp fire began. Authorities don’t believe all those on the list are missing and the roster dropped by 300 on Sunday as more people were located or got in touch to say they weren’t missing.
  • Meanwhile in Southern California, firefighters continue to mop up and patrol the 391-square-kilometre burn area in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Fire officials now estimate that 1,500 buildings were destroyed and 341 buildings damaged in the southern wildfire.


How you can help

Araya Cipollini, 19, holds on to her dog T.J. near the burned out remnants of her neighbour's home in Paradise, Calif. She and her family lost their home nearby in the fire.

John Locher/The Associated Press

Canadians wishing to help those affected those affected by the fires should first do some research in finding a reputable organization to donate to. The website Charity Navigator is one place to start. The American Red Cross and local branches of the United Way are also raising funds for wildfire relief, while the crowdfunding site GoFundMe has collected a page of verified crowdfunding campaigns in the northern and southern parts of the state.

Where are the fires now?

There are several fires burning across California. Three fires in particular, one in the north and two in the south, have been causing the most damage recently.

  • Camp fire: The most destructive and deadliest of the fires started Nov. 8 near the town of Chico, in the northern part of the state. In its initial 24 hours, the destruction was so fast and total that there was virtually no firefight at all, just rescues. It largely incinerated Paradise, a town of 27,000 residents, and surrounding communities in the Sierra Nevada foothills. By Nov. 19, 77 people had been confirmed killed, setting a new state record for the most fatalities in a single fire.
  • Woolsey fire: This fire in Southern California’s Ventura and Los Angeles counties started Nov. 8 and killed at least three people, burning for more than a week before being mostly contained. It was stoked to even greater destructive force by the Santa Ana winds, a common fall occurrence in the state. The winds are produced by surface high pressure over the Great Basin squeezing air down through canyons and passes in Southern California’s mountain ranges. 
  • Hill fire: Another Southern California fire, smaller than Woolsey, started Nov. 8 and burned over some 5,000 acres in only a few hours. So far, no deaths have been attributed to the Hill fire and by week’s end it was almost completely contained.

Damage so far

The Northern California fire obliterated the town of Paradise. Searchers pulled bodies from incinerated homes and cremated cars, but in many cases, the victims may have been reduced to bits of bones and ash. By Nov. 19, more than 10,500 homes had been confirmed destroyed.

Story continues below advertisement

Downtown Paradise, California

BILLE RD.

Feather

River

Hospital

CLARK RD.

ELLIOTT RD.

SKYWAY

Performing

Arts Center

Gold Nugget

Museum

PEARSON RD.

Area of

detail

0

300

m

Chico

Area of fire

damage

Destroyed

building

0

20

KM

SOURCE: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Downtown Paradise, California

BILLE RD.

Feather

River

Hospital

CLARK RD.

ELLIOTT RD.

SKYWAY

Performing

Arts Center

Gold Nugget

Museum

PEARSON RD.

Area of

detail

0

300

m

Chico

Area of fire

damage

0

20

Destroyed building

KM

SOURCE: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Downtown Paradise, California

BILLE RD.

Destroyed building

Feather

River

Hospital

CLARK RD.

ELLIOTT RD.

SKYWAY

Performing

Arts Center

Gold Nugget

Museum

PEARSON RD.

Area of

detail

Chico

Area of fire

damage

0

300

0

20

m

KM

SOURCE: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Damage to celebrity homes and filming locations

Many celebrities took to Twitter and Instagram last weekend, updating about the state of their homes in California and the safety of them and their families.

Canadian rocker Neil Young said on his website that he lost his Malibu-area home in the disaster, which he linked to climate change. “Firefighters have never seen anything like this in their lives. I have heard that said countless times in the past two days, and I have lost my home before to a California fire, now another,” Mr. Young said on neilyoungarchives.com.

Meanwhile, action star Gerard Butler posted a photo on Instagram that showed a burned-out structure and a badly scorched vehicle.

Robin Thicke’s Malibu home burned down entirely, according to his representative. The 41-year-old singer said on Instagram that he, his girlfriend and his two kids are “safe and surrounded by friends and family” and were thankful to firefighters. Miley Cyrus tweeted that her home burned, but that her animals and fiance Liam Hemsworth were safe.

Paramount Ranch’s “Western Town,” a landmark film location dating back to 1927 that included a jail, hotel and saloon, burned to the ground . The TV series Westworld is among the many productions that have filmed at the ranch in the mountains west of Los Angeles.

Trump’s incendiary remarks

What Trump said: President Donald Trump has tweeted several messages of support to firefighters in the days since the infernos began, but before that, another tweet started a political firestorm in California. On his Remembrance Day trip to Europe, Mr. Trump blamed the fires on state forest-management policies, and threatened in a Nov. 10 tweet to withhold federal funding if those policies were not changed. His tone had softened by Nov. 12, when he approved the California Governor’s request for a major disaster declaration.

How California responded: Governor Jerry Brown said federal and state governments must do more forest management but that climate change is the greater source of the problem. “And those who deny that are definitely contributing to the tragedies that we’re now witnessing, and will continue to witness in the coming years,” he said. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor-elect who will replace Mr. Brown in January, also accused Mr. Trump of putting partisanship ahead of relief efforts.

Story continues below advertisement

The political context: There is little love lost between Mr. Trump and California, a state that mostly voted for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, in 2016. In this fall’s midterm elections, the Democrats managed to flip several Republican-held California seats in the House of Representatives, while also maintaining their hold on the state’s two Senate seats and electing Mr. Newsom to the governor’s office.

Fire management’s fraught history: Decades of government policy have indeed played a role in making American wildfires worse, but for a federal leader to single out one state as the culprit – and without mentioning climate change’s impact (more on that below) – is stretching the truth. The federal government owns nearly 46 per cent of California’s land area, including many of the northern national forests in areas devastated by the Camp fire. In California, as in much of the U.S. and Canada, fire services adhered for decades to a “suppression” policy of putting out every fire in public forests as quickly as possible. Many scientists have concluded that suppression prevented natural fires from clearing out undergrowth and dead plants, which made forests more susceptible to larger, more destructive and less easily controllable fires. But one reason scientists can tell suppression isn’t a big factor in the current fires is that some Northern California areas now burning had fires in 2005 and 2008, and aren’t “fuel-choked closed-canopy forests,” University of Utah fire scientist Philip Dennison told Associated Press. The other major fire, in Southern California, burned through shrub land, not forest, Dr. Dennison said.

Major causes of wildfires

Top 10 human causes of major fires in Calif.,

1850-2018

CAUSE

FIRES

Vehicles/other equip.

702

Arson

473

Debris

231

Campfire

182

Smoking

145

Powerlines

140

Playing with fire

78

Escaped prescribed burn

39

Railroad

33

Structure

9

source: California Department of Forestry

and Fire Protection

Major causes of wildfires

Top 10 human causes of major fires in California,

1850-2018

CAUSE

FIRES

Vehicles/other equip.

702

Arson

473

Debris

231

Campfire

182

Smoking

145

Powerlines

140

Playing with fire

78

Escaped prescribed burn

39

Railroad

33

Structure

9

source: California Department of Forestry

and Fire Protection

Major causes of wildfires

Top 10 human causes of major fires in California 1850-2018

CAUSE

FIRES

Vehicles/other equip.

702

Arson

473

Debris

231

Campfire

182

Smoking

145

Powerlines

140

Playing with fire

78

Escaped prescribed burn

39

Railroad

33

Structure

9

source: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

The bigger picture: California and climate change

Drought and warmer weather attributed to climate change have led to longer and more destructive wildfire seasons in California. While the state officially emerged from a five-year drought last year, much of the northern two-thirds of the state is abnormally dry. This means that when fires are started they have the potential to burn bigger and longer than in past decades. In light of the devastating Northern California fire, “it’s evident from that situation statewide that we’re in climate change and it’s going to be here for the foreseeable future,” Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby told Associated Press.

longer seasons and

more fires in the west

Per cent change in burnt area in Western U.S.

Over 1973–1982 average

Five forest areas

North. Rockies

Northwest

Sierra Nevada

1983-1992

Southwest

1993-2002

2003-2012

South. Rockies

-1,000

0

1,000

3,000

5,000%

Fire season length in Western U.S.

Annual time between first and last large-fire discovery

and last fire declared under control

400

Last

control

300

Last

discovery

Day of year

200

First

discovery

100

0

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

‘Increasing western U.S. forest wildfire

activity: sensitivity to changes in the timing

of spring,’ Anthony LeRoy Westerling Sierra

Nevada Research Institute, Univ. of California

longer seasons and

more fires in the west

Per cent change in burnt area in Western U.S.

Over 1973–1982 average

Five forest areas

Northern Rockies

Northwest

Sierra Nevada

1983-1992

Southwest

1993-2002

2003-2012

Southern Rockies

5,000%

-1,000

0

1,000

2,000

3,000

4,000

Fire season length in Western U.S.

Annual time between first and last large-fire discovery

and last fire declared under control

400

Last

control

300

Last

discovery

Day of year

200

First

discovery

100

0

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

‘Increasing western U.S. forest wildfire activity:

sensitivity to changes in the timing of spring,’

Anthony LeRoy Westerling Sierra Nevada Research

Institute, University of California

longer seasons and more fires in the west

Per cent change in burnt area in Western U.S.

Over 1973–1982 average

Five forest areas

Northern Rockies

Northwest

Sierra Nevada

1983-1992

Southwest

1993-2002

2003-2012

Southern Rockies

5,000%

-1,000

0

1,000

2,000

3,000

4,000

Fire season length in Western U.S.

Annual time between first and last large-fire discovery and last fire

declared under control

400

Last

control

300

Last

discovery

Day of year

200

First

discovery

100

0

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

‘Increasing western U.S. forest wildfire activity: sensitivity to changes in the

timing of spring,’ Anthony LeRoy Westerling Sierra Nevada Research Institute,

University of California



Compiled by Globe staff

Associated Press, with a report from Tamsin McMahon

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...