Tuesday, 13 January 2009: 4:00 PM
The 2008 California Fires (and elsewhere)
Room 230 (Phoenix Convention Center)
On 20/21 June 2008, more than 6000 lightning strikes started over 2000 fires in 26 central and northern California counties. This fire siege was notable in several ways. First, extreme dry conditions preceded the lightning event. The lightning occurrence was anomalous in terms of the time of season given the large number of strikes and the spatial distribution. The number of associated fire starts for a 2-day period was anomalous, and immediately impacted available suppression resources. Not long after the fires were in full swing, smoke became a major health impact issue. Further, the smoke seems to have initiated a feedback process that limited atmospheric mixing even further. The socio-economic impacts included the loss of 15 lives, over 500 structures, and high dollar costs associated with 25,000 firefighting personnel and suppression activities. Elsewhere around the country, the season's fire activity was generally light.