Displaying items by tag: wildfires
Almost 3,000 people have had to evacuate their homes in Tenerife as a wildfire, caused by embers left smouldering from an August blaze, re-ignited on the Spanish island. Unseasonably hot weather (up to 39°C) sparked the flames, which engulfed the north east of the island on 5 October. About 2,400 people have been evacuated from the town of Santa Ursula and another 600 from La Orotava. Teams of firefighters and six water-dropping helicopters worked to battle the fire overnight. The August fire had been brought under control but was never completely extinguished, with embers still burning in the forest. The firefighters have requested support from the army’s military emergency unit. The island’s councillor in charge of emergencies, Blanca Perez, told local radio this fire ‘has been stabilised, we are seeing how it evolves to determine if in a few hours residents can return to their homes’.
Wildfires have devastated communities on Maui and Hawaii. The historic town of Lahaina has burned to the ground. Pastor Milhoan from South Maui said, ‘I’ve been deployed to Iraq twice. Maui looks like a war zone, a smouldering mess.’ Over 110 Maui residents are dead. Only 25% of the fire zone has been searched; ruins are marked with an orange X after initial searches and HR if human remains were found. People with missing relatives give DNA samples to help identify victims. Red Cross, churches, mission agencies, hotels and holiday lets are housing residents and distributing food, clothing medicine, etc. But a different horror is emerging - looting vacant homes and bodies of the dead. Enomoto had to use violence to stop someone he found looting the charred body of an elderly woman. There was gold and jewellery everywhere. Pray for the looting to stop as fire zones are searched.
European countries suffering under sizzling heat waves for weeks can hope for respite as ‘subtle changes in the jet stream’ are expected to start to bring temperatures down by 2 August. Until then we can continue to pray for the safety of firefighters who are running towards the flames as others are running away. Ask God to comfort those whose homes and businesses have been destroyed. Pray for help and wisdom for those who have to rebuild their livelihoods after the fires are extinguished. May God be with people mourning those killed by fire, and may He help those who continue struggling with health issues worsened by heat and smoke.
An intense heatwave continues to swelter large swathes of the USA, with temperature records forecast to be broken from coast to coast. Millions of Americans have been urged to avoid going outside. It has been an extreme-weather summer across the continent: brutal heat, a barrage of tornadoes, flooding in the USA and unprecedented wildfires in Canada. Now the Biden administration has introduced an ‘all-of-society response’ to help manage a challenge that is only getting worse. Canada’s government has a strategy geared towards helping the most vulnerable, including older people, indigenous communities, inner-city residents and people who work outside. The US plans new research centres to help underserved communities prepare for future heatwaves, as well as work on a national strategy focused on equity and environmental justice. The administration also plans to gather mayors and indigenous leaders from across the country to meet emergency response officials to discuss what additional tools they may need. Please continue praying for over 140 million people still sizzling under heat alerts which will extend into August.
New York air pollution is ‘hazardous’, in the Very Unhealthy category, with no end in sight for the thick smoke pouring south from more than 400 Canadian wildfires. At least 13 US states have air quality alerts issued, impacting approximately 115 million people. Experts said the pollution could persist into the weekend. There have been mass evacuations in Quebec province. Canadian officials warned that this could be the country’s worst wildfire season on record, with over 6.7 million acres already scorched. By 8 June hundreds of uncontrolled forest fires were threatening Canada’s critical infrastructure and forcing evacuations. Wildfires are common in Canada’s western provinces, but this year they rapidly spread east. About 9.4m acres have already burned. Canada’s wildfires are part of our new climate reality.
As of 17 May, 88 wildfires were still burning across Alberta, and dozens more across British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Weeks of uncontrolled blazes have made air quality dangerously poor, changing the bluebird sky to an eerie orange glow. Environment and Climate Change Canada issued a special air quality statement as ‘very high risk’. Air quality is so poor that even those without pre-existing health conditions could have difficulty breathing, especially if doing strenuous activity outside. An Environment Canada meteorologist said, ‘It is potentially a really dangerous situation that everyone must take seriously’. Pray for children, older adults, and those with lung or heart conditions to be sensible and cautious and stay inside if breathing becomes difficult. Pray for healthy people to be aware of tell-tale symptoms such as sore throat, coughing, or being very tired or lethargic. Not feeling very good can even be attributed to air quality.
Alberta announced a state of emergency after wildfires forced 30,000 people from their homes and their jobs, leaving behind all they own in an ‘unprecedented’ crisis. Thousands more must be prepared to leave on a moment’s notice as 110 fires, fanned by strong winds, raged. By 7 May over twenty communities had been evacuated and 301,000+ acres burned. Pray for Albertans, living in one of the world’s largest oil-producing regions, as they closely monitor dangers to facilities. Ottawa is providing federal assistance where needed. Pray for those who are trapped and need to be rescued by helicopters and boats. Pray for good communication between the various emergency agencies bringing aid and providing shelter. Pray for the firefighters battling over 25 fires that were still out of control on 11 May. Pray for God to give his peace to those fearfully watching smoke in the distance. Pray for those debating whether to flee or stay and firefight.
Researchers, including those from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, say that lightning-ignited wildfires produce large emissions of carbon, nitrogen oxides and other gases, playing a key role in the climate crisis. Previous studies already found that the global occurrence of lightning flashes may increase due to global heating over land and in the oceanic region of south-eastern Asia. A warming planet could lead to more ‘hot lightning’ strikes in many parts of the world. Hot lightning bolts are much more likely to spark wildfires and the climate crisis could lead to more wildfire-inducing ‘hot lightning’. Lightning strikes of all kinds could increase by 30% by 2100, researchers say,and a new model suggests major ice sheet collapse will happen before the Paris Climate Agreement temperatures are reached.
Large-scale wildfires are occurring more frequently across the UK. The challenges are enormous: in the middle of nowhere, two-metre-high flames moving faster than anyone can run. It can take days to bring a fire under control, an exhausting ordeal for even the fittest firefighter. An officer said, ‘Wildfires are unlike any other fire, they change on a minute-by-minute basis. One minute a fire is knee-high, the next it’s above your head. It is one of the most arduous fires our crews face. Left unchecked, they rage for miles across the countryside. If the wind changes direction the tail of the fire could become the head, and it spreads in the opposite direction. You can walk for an hour with hand tools wearing boots, jacket, and helmet, before getting to the area you are going to be fighting.’ Conditions are brutal. See also this week’s France article, ‘We are waiting for rain’.
Last week's wildfires across London showed lessons learned tackling rural blazes must urgently be applied to built-up areas after grass fires spread to forty houses and shops nearby. Prolonged dry weather parching gardens, verges and green spaces followed by temperatures of 40C sparked blazes normally seen in the countryside. 500 wildfires have been reported so far this year, compared with 237 last year. The group commander for Hereford and Worcester Fire Service said, ‘Everything is bone-dry and services need to recognise the risk they've now got. If they don't, then they're naïve. There are very urban services that think wildfires are low down on the risk list. I understand their need to prioritise resources, but there must be a review.’ A 2021 risk assessment report for the government found that two out of eight fire services made no reference to wildfires in their risk management plans.