Several large wildfires are ongoing in Portugal and Sweden as a heatwave continues to scorch Europe, killing cows in Switzerland and shrinking Sweden’s tallest mountain. Meanwhile, hot temperatures and ongoing fires on the west coast of the US prompted President Donald Trump to declare on Sunday, August 5th, that wildfires in California are a “major disaster”.
Here is an update on current wildfires in Europe and North America:
Portugal and Sweden
Major firefighting efforts continued for a fourth day on the south coast of Portugal. Authorities reported to the AP that more than 1,100 firefighters in 327 vehicles and eight aircraft were battling the blaze that erupted amid a heatwave caused by a mass of hot air from North Africa.
The Civil Protection Agency said 44 people required medical assistance as the blaze passed by the outskirts of Monchique, 250 kilometres (155 miles) south of Lisbon, during the night. A 72-year-old woman was seriously hurt.
EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides said today, August 6th, that the dozens of forest fires in Sweden this summer "have highlighted once again the impact of climate change,” according to reporting by the AP. He urged better preparation and response efforts in the 28-member bloc.
Stylianides said that more than 360 firefighters, seven planes, six helicopters and 67 vehicles were mobilised through the European Civil Protection Mechanism in the past three weeks in response to dozens of wildfires in mostly the central and western parts of the country in what he called the "the single biggest operation" in a decade.
The fires are all now under control, but authorities remain vigilant for more outbreaks.
In a White House statement released yesterday, US President Donald Trump declared wildfires in California a "major disaster" and "ordered Federal assistance to supplement State, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by wildfires and high winds beginning on July 23rd, 2018 and continuing".
The largest of the 17 ongoing fires in the state is the massive, out-of-control Northern California wildfire called the Mendocino Complex. Officials deemed it the fifth largest in state history, according to Reuters. The fire has already burnt through nearly 300,000 acres (121,406 hectares) and destroyed 68 homes.
Another fire, the nearly two-week-old Carr Fire that has charred more than 160,000 acres (64,750 hectares) in a scenic region north of Sacramento, claimed another life Saturday, a 21-year-old apprentice lineman, Jay Ayeta, officials with the PG&E Corporation said on August 6th.
Ayeta died when his vehicle crashed as he worked with crews in dangerous terrain to battle in Shasta County.
While firefighters managed to contain 43% of the Carr blaze by late Sunday, Ayeta was the sixth person to die in that blaze. The other victims include two young children and their great-grandmother, whose home was overrun by flames, and two firefighters.
With gusting winds, triple digit temperatures and almost zero chance of rain in Northern California this week, scorching weather poses a persistent threat to firefighters battling out-of-control blazes on parched land, officials said.
"Unfortunately, they're not going to get a break anytime soon," said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
Yesterday, Trump said on his official Twitter account, "California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilised."