A brush fire started small, but burned out of control within a day in the rocky San Bernardino area of southern California, about sixty miles east of Los Angeles in the Cajon Pass:
— Gabriel Perez (@creative_pizza) August 17, 2016
The is burning with extraordinary ferocity, say firefighters:
“In my 40 years of fighting fire, I’ve never seen fire behavior so extreme,” said Incident Commander Mike Wakoski.
After a destructive fire season last year, 2016 is shaping up to be equally bad.
“It’s to the point where explosive fire growth is the new normal this year,” said Glenn Barley of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The Blue Cut fire is just one of several that have ushered in California’s 2016 fire season:
Less than 24 hours after the blaze began 60 miles east of Los Angeles, authorities had assembled a fleet of 10 air tankers, 15 helicopters and an army of 1,300 firefighters, many of them just off the lines of a wildfire that burned for 10 days just to the east.
At a dawn briefing, half the firefighters raised their hands when asked how many had just come from one of the other infernos burning across California. In all, 10,000 firefighters are fighting the eight ongoing blazes.
California governor Jerry Brown issued a state of emergency on 16 August 2016, due to the Blue Cut fire. More than a thousand firefighters have tackled the blaze:
The frustration of firefighters becomes clear after just one look at the huge wall of flames in San Bernardino County.
“The biggest thing was, we had to continually retreat against that advancing wall of fire, and that was something that I haven’t witnessed in this section, ever,” said Eric Sherwin of the San Bernardino County Fire Department. “We have strike teams here, and remember, our priorities are life, properties, and infrastructure. And lives also include firefighters’ lives. And we can’t go and stand in front of that 80-foot wall of fire. That’s just self-defeating.”
The weather remains hot and dry, further hampering efforts to keep the fire away from homes. As of 18 August 2016 — two days into the Blue Cut fire — it has burned fifty square miles and dozens of structures, including the historic Summit Inn diner at the top of the Cajon Pass.