Firefighting resources stretched thin with California burning at record rate

Published: Sep. 9, 2020 at 12:04 AM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - California’s record wildfire season has resources stretched thinner than ever before, with 2-million acres already burned and at least a dozen major fires in progress.

Dr. Graham Kent, Director of the Seismology Lab at the University of Nevada and founder of ALERT Wildfire, has been closely monitoring fires in the West since 2013.

“It’s unprecedented. Everybody’s tapped out."

Dr. Kent compares California’s current situation to that of another recent major, devastating fire season from a world away.

“The nearest thing is Australia," said Dr. Kent. “We haven’t had these fires in California or the Western U.S. ever.”

In 2013, Dr. Kent helped start ALERT Wildfire to better monitor the early stages of wildfires and help firefighting efforts as quick as possible. Since then, one camera has grown to nearly 800 in various places across California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

But Dr. Kent says the dire situation in California has put ALERT Wildfire in “triage mode.”

“Now it’s all about life safety and making sure what meager resources we have given the scale of the fires,That they know how to prioritize."

Dr. Kent adds there simply aren’t enough firefighting resources - firemen and women, engines, air support, etc. - to adequately spread across the vast acres burning in the Golden State.

He cites the Bobcat Fire - burning in Southern California - to illustrate a staggering statistic seen statewide.

“They have 85 people on it," said Dr. Kent. "You’d normally have ten times the number of people.”

The last thing needed is another fire close to Northern Nevada, where many resources have already been sent outside the border.

“We’re just in a real bad situation so everyone needs to hunker down,” said Dr. Kent.

"People always say, ‘what does climate change look like?’ Well, this is what it looks like.”

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