LOS ANGELES | The fires that have been raging for weeks in the western United States are so powerful that the smoke they release has spread to Europe, and continues to poison the daily lives of populations near the blazes.
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Since it began its satellite observations in 2003, the European Copernicus climate change service had never recorded data of this magnitude.
The activity of these “unprecedented” fires is, according to the organization, “tens to hundreds of times more intense” than average.
Unprecedented amounts of carbon have already been released into the atmosphere. And the smoke, particularly dense, crossed the whole country and the Atlantic.
“The fact that these fires emit so much pollution into the atmosphere that we can still see thick smoke 8000 km away reflects how devastating they are, in terms of scale and duration,” said Wednesday in a report. press release Mark Parrington, scientist in the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service.
Most of the smoke is concentrated on the west coast of the United States, where the air quality of the major California cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, or those further north of Portland and Seattle, is currently among the worst. in the world.
More than 17,000 firefighters, exhausted by their Sisyphean fight against the flames since mid-August, are at work in the only state of California, the most affected, with some 25 major outbreaks.
One of them, the “Bobcat Fire,” threatened to engulf the historic Mount Wilson Observatory near Los Angeles, but the firefighters managed to save the building.
The fires of the American West have killed at least 30 people in California and Oregon. More than 2 million hectares in total have already gone up in smoke and tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes, many of which have been reduced to ashes.
“Empty and worried”
This is the case with Eraida Rodas’ wooden house, in which she had lived for a dozen years with her husband and four children in Talent, in southern Oregon.
All that remains today are the metal structure of the floor, the charred carcass of a child’s bicycle and small animal statues.
“It’s as if I had lost all the efforts that our family made, I feel empty and worried,” she told AFP, sobs in her voice.
Saving rain was expected in Oregon and Washington State on Wednesday. But weather conditions could make the situation even worse further south.
“With no significant precipitation in sight, California remains dry and prone to fires,” noted the California fire protection agency CalFire, stressing that the rise in temperatures and the wind expected in the coming days further increased the risk.
The fires that are increasing across the planet are associated with various phenomena anticipated by scientists due to climate change: increase in temperature and decrease in precipitation in particular.
With less than two months of the presidential election, the fires, which have already caused billions of dollars in damage, have entered the campaign.
President Donald Trump visited California on Monday, where he sparked controversy by seeming to deny the role of climate change in these extraordinary fires, mainly due to him, according to him, to poor “forest management”.
His Democratic opponent Joe Biden, who will face him at the polls on November 3, has echoed him as a “climate arsonist”.