Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

CALIFORNIA’S FAWN FIRE PROMPTS STATE OF EMERGENCY, WHILE HURRICANE SAM IS ON TRACK TO BRING SWELLS, STORM SURGE TO US EAST COAST

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2021 AS OF 2:30 PM EDT

The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reports that 60 large fires are burning across 10 states. Collectively, these fires account for 3 million acres of land burned. More broadly, 2021 has seen a total of 46,190 wildfires across the country, with almost 5.9 million acres burned. Currently, the NIFC’s National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC), the agency responsible for assessing fire risk across the United States (US), has put the country at National Preparedness Level 3.

Marcus Kauffman: UnSplash

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), the Dixie Fire is still the largest active fire in the state – having already burned 963,309 acres in the counties of Butte, Plumas, Shasta, Tehama, and Lassen since it began on July 13. The Fawn Fire is another active blaze in California, having burned 8,578 acres in Shasta County. The fire, which started on September 22, is 90-percent contained as of Thursday morning. According to CNN, the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office issued a criminal complaint against hiker Alexandra Souverneva in regards to the Fawn Fire, with authorities stating that while trying to boil drinking water, she may have committed arson. California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a state of emergency on Monday for Shasta County as a result of the Fawn Fire, which has resulted in the evacuation of thousands of residents and destruction of 185 structures. 

The lasting impact of wildfires, particularly ‘burn scars’ that result from fires destroying forest systems that hold soil in place, has brought about an increase in clouded water that is undrinkable for residents across the western US. According to Kaiser Health News, heavy rainfall following the wildfire season can create waterborne dangers, as chemical byproducts and heavy metals from burned structures mix with groundwater. Public health researcher Gina Solomon at the Public Health Institute in Oakland, California cautioned that smoke and ash from burned structures could also add toxic chemicals to the water supply, creating long-term problems for communities across the western US.

GeoColor: NOAA

In the east, Hurricane Sam – a major, Category 4 Hurricane – is approximately 365 miles north-northeast of the Northern Leeward Islands. The storm is moving north at 13 miles per hour (mph), with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph. While Sam is not predicted to make landfall in the US, it is expected to create swells and storm surge impacting Puerto Rico and the eastern US over the next several days. With nearly two months remaining in the Atlantic hurricane season, there is only one name left on the named storms list for the 2021 hurricane season. If it is used, it will only be the third time in recorded history that a second list of hurricanes and tropical storms names will be introduced.

Planning an evacuation route in case of wildfire: Ready.gov

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages individuals to prepare and plan for wildfires. As these events can develop rapidly, it is never too soon to prepare for a potential fire incident. Individuals should follow the guidance of state and local authorities. The Hagerty Blog Team will continue providing information and updates on current events and disasters impacting the nation. Visit Disaster Discourse for the latest information.

RELATED STORIES

  • Remember, Ready.gov provides information on how to prepare for Wildfire and how to keep you and your family safe.
  • FEMA America’s PrepareAthon: How to Prepare for a Wildfire
  • The Los Angeles Times regularly updated tracking of California Wildfires: California Wildfires Map
  • The National Fire Protection Association provides wildfire preparedness tips: link
  • Marin County provides a wildfire evacuation checklist: link
  • FEMA provides an information video about how to be prepared for wildfires: link

Keep track of Hagerty’s incident coverage here:

WILDFIRES 2021