A wind-whipped wildfire that tore through the eastern Sierra Nevada this week didn’t get the same attention that many other devastating fires in the state receive – perhaps because it’s not fire season, and few were expecting it.
But this one was bad, and it’s exactly the kind of fire that climate experts warn will become more common in California as increased heat and more frequent droughts take hold because of climate change.
The unusual winter blaze destroyed 40 homes in the small towns of Swall Meadows and Paradise, burning unchecked up to the snow line until it was slowed down by rain.
Four firefighters have been injured and the fire has burned 7,000 acres. It 95 percent contained this morning. About 200 people had been evacuated from the towns are being allowed to go home today – in some cases to salvage whatever they can from their charred properties.
There’s not a way to connect this week’s wildfire in Inyo and Mono counties directly to climate change, but it’s clear that that something unusual is going on in the Golden State. We’re now in the fourth year of a drought that’s proven to be one of the worst in state history. Last year was the warmest ever in California, and the average temperature over the past five years in the state is up nearly three degrees over the historical average.