Megafires in California Force Evacuation of 1 Million

gallery03_0001.jpg[Editor's Note: One million people have now had to flee from the California wildfires, exacerbated by drought and high winds. This fire tops off a year, where a half-million acres were burned in Greece and 63 people killed, and the tundra has started burning. A new term has been coined for these events: 'Megafires'. Our sympathies go out to all the victims of these climactic disasters and we hope to prevent as many future disasters as possible.]

The fires in southern California have now been blazing for more than a week, forcing more than half a million people to be evacuated between Santa Barbara and the Mexican border. The fires, fueled by thick underbrush, thundering winds and months of dry weather in the region, have devoured more than 800 structures and burned close to 300,000 acres. Residents from the San Diego area huddled in Qualcomm Stadium as the fires creeped closer and closer to their houses, an image reminiscent of the Superdome after hurricane Katrina uprooted hundreds of thousands of people.

Though there have only been a handful of injuries and one death, the hot winds show no sign ofSan Diego Residents at Qualcomm Stadium letting up. President Bush has declared the fires a national emergency, and directed FEMA to take part in firefighting and recovery efforts.

Our hearts go out to all the people in the region whose lives are being turned upside down by the fires, and especially to the many climate heroes and community organizers in the area. We stand with you.

Suffice it to say that like hurricane Katrina and the wildfires of 2003 that raged across much of the same Southern California scrubland, these fires are just examples of the scale of natural disasters we will continue to see with more frequency.

Climate change, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) writes in their most recent report, is already beginning to cause more frequent and higher intensity floods, hurricanes, droughts and fires. The group of more than 2500 scientists from around the world predicts that if we continue to emit greenhouse gases at current rates, the world in 2050 will look more like southern California and New Orleans more of the time.

Let’s make sure that’s not the legacy we leave for the future–one of floods and fires of biblical proportions–join Step It Up or Powershift on November 3, and make sure our politicians get the message on global warming.

Click here for LA Times coverage of the fires.
Click here for San Diego Union Tribune coverage.

7 Responses to “Megafires in California Force Evacuation of 1 Million”

  1. 1 Gabriel Elsner Oct 23rd, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    As a resident of Southern California the scale of these fires is absolutely terrifying. There is speculation by the Los Angeles County Fire Department that two of the fires in LA county may connect. This is one of the DRIEST years on record in Los Angeles. My prayers and thoughts go out to the families that were evacuated and I hope they return to their homes safely. God Bless our Firefighters out there and I hope we have enough National Guard troops still in California to help them.

    As Phil said, we must put an end to climate change before these natural disasters get worse. Join us at Power Shift – it WILL be a historic event that will change the future of this country. See you all there.


  2. 2 Will Oct 24th, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    With only a marginal and alas unavoidable change in temperature of 1C much of the central and western states look set to become desert. This is the first step in the process, and then after the fires comes the great dust storms.

    Notice how the popular press haven’t made this connection with global warming, everyone rather wouldn’t know it’s their fault, there’s alot of people’s heads buried in sand.

  3. 3 a high school student Oct 24th, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    yea as a person who will most likely have to evacuate, it is absolutely scarey. but people need to just calm down and think of what to do when the time comes. me myself, im going up north to bakersfield towards family. its actually RAINING ash. but it isnt climate change that caused this, its the arsons

  4. 4 Richard Graves Oct 25th, 2007 at 12:57 am

    Arson may have started it, the drought and winds have made it into the terror it is. These fires are a latest string of mega-fires that have sprouted across the world this year. Global Warming ‘exacerbates’ disasters…it doesn’t create them.

  5. 5 Sumner R Andrews Jr Oct 25th, 2007 at 10:17 am

    We received our wakeup call with Katrina. We hit the snooze button. The Southwest drought has been dismissed as a natural 10 year cycle. The alarm has again gone off with the Southern states drought which means the south as a whole is drought stricken. Again the button is hit. Now we are facing the terrible terrible California fire tragedy. It is fairly obvious even to the common man that something is terribly wrong. Scientists are saying we may have only a decade left to turn back the effects of global warming before it becomes a runaway process. We need to develop a rapid response to climate change. The Global Open Source Initiative is such a plan . As a starting point in discussing a rapid response , the Initiative proposal should be placed in the hands of every presidential candidate, global leader attending the Bali Conference in December, local,state and national leader and most importantly concerned citizens with the clear message, “Do something! We don’t want our children to suffer for our inaction.” John Kennedy created NASA and eight years later we walked on the moon. Our time frames and capabilities are not much different from then.

    Sumner R. Andrews Jr.

  6. 6 Nina Rizzo Oct 25th, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    These fires are burning close to home, both as a Cali resident and as a climate activist.

    I used to live in socal and I’m now in the SF Bay Area. I have family in socal whom I call every night to ask if they’re OK (my high school was closed and my brothers can’t play outside).

    I’m going to echo Richard:
    Global warming influences the factors that combine to ignite forest fires, such as by increasing tree disease, drought and fueling stronger, warmer winds. Plus, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the U.S. Forest Service, it looks like megafires will spread to norcal, so being in the north is no guarantee of physical protection.. Here’s a easy read:

  1. 1 Wonk Room » Global Boiling: Yes, CNN, Global Warming Is To Blame For Wildfires Trackback on Jul 10th, 2008 at 1:18 pm
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About Phil

Phil has been a campus clean energy activist and helped organize Step It Up 2007, the largest national open source grassroots campaign to stop global warming. He is currently working on building an international movement, focusing specifically on mobilizing and educating people in Africa and the Middle East. His new project,, will stitch together a creative, powerful and unstoppable global movement pushing for bold and comprehensive action on climate change on the international level.

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