1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

California wildfires force thousands to evacuate

July 4, 2024

Firefighters were working to contain a major blaze near Oroville, north of the state capital Sacramento. Experts have predicted a severe fire season as the US state experiences drought and aridification.

Fire damage near Oroville, California
Large swathes of land were burned near Oroville in northern CaliforniaImage: Noah Berger/AP Photo/picture alliance

More than 25,000 people in northern California were ordered to evacuate on Wednesday after wildfires burned out of control.

More than 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) of grass was consumed after a major fire broke out on Tuesday outside Oroville, near the state capital of Sacramento.

There were at least a dozen smaller blazes as well, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

"The conditions in our county this summer are different than we've experienced the last two summers," Butte County fire chief Garrett Sjolund told reporters. "The fuels are very dense. Brush is dry, and as you can see, any wind will move a fire out very quickly."

A helicopter dropping water on a fire at night
Severe weather conditions have created a difficult fire season for CaliforniaImage: Carlos Barria/REUTERS

Firefighters were able to contain the Oroville blaze in some areas as of Wednesday afternoon, but they continued to try and build containment lines to the north.

"On that north side they have some real struggles in terms of the topography," said Oroville Mayor David Pittman.

California's 'historic and prolonged' heatwave

Climate scientists say the west coast of the United States is undergoing a decades-long aridification, which is partly the result of human-induced climate change.

California has experienced 20 years of drought.

An aeroplane dropping fire retardant on a blaze
Meteorologists have predicted high temperatures in the coming daysImage: Noah Berger/AP Photo/picture alliance

While the last two years of drought were relatively mild, 2024 is shaping up to be hot and dry, creating more fuel for the wildfires as plants dry out and die.

"An exceptionally dangerous situation is underway as we enter a potentially deadly, historic, and prolonged heat event," the National Weather Service wrote on social media.

It has forecast temperatures of up to 46 degrees Celsius (115 Fahrenheit) in some spots in the coming days.

zc/jsi (AP, AFP)