The record-breaking 2020 fire season has seen enormous wildfires tear across California and other states in the West. Experts have linked the worsening fire season to climate change, as emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from the burning of fossil fuels have led to warmer and drier conditions.
Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that while fall fires are predictable, “Just about everything else about the present situation is quite unusual.”
More than five million acres have burned across California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington State this year. In California alone, fires have burned more than 4.1 million acres, destroyed 10,488 homes and other structures and led to at least 31 deaths.
There were concerns on Tuesday about whether the wildfires could affect voting in Orange County, where thousands of people are under evacuation orders. Numerous places around Irvine and other parts of the county, such as parks and schools and community centers, had been set up as evacuation centers. At least four of those sites, officials said, are also slated to be voting centers, raising the possibility that they may not be able to open for voters later in the week if the fires do not subside.
“Right now we’re at a wait and see,” said Neal Kelley, Orange County’s registrar of voters. “We’ll start making decisions tomorrow.”
Mr. Kelley said he had been in consultation with fire officials on Tuesday, and had been told they were hopeful that the winds would subside, and that evacuees would be able to go home in time for voting. He said the county’s plan had been to set up the voting sites on Thursday, to be ready to open on Friday.
More than 750 firefighters have been battling the blazes, which were known to have damaged only one home as of Tuesday afternoon. But the area of concern widened as winds blew the fires to new areas, including toward Chino Hills, a city of about 84,000 people that sits at the corner of Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside Counties.