wildfire

Hurricane season means people on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts live with the possibility of evacuation for several months each year. But in the part of the country prone to wildfires, being ready to evacuate has now become a way of life with wildfires turning into a year-round threat.

Last year, wildfires destroyed thousands of homes around California. And this summer, it happened again with wildfire devouring entire neighborhoods in the city of Redding.

Fires, like all natural disasters, disproportionately affect those who are low income. They often lack insurance and resources to rebuild or move elsewhere. The effects on families and communities can be long-lasting.

On Mike Pink's potato farm at dawn, the sun is an angry red ball low in the sky.

This summer, wildfire smoke has blanketed much of the West for days and weeks. And that smoke has come between the sun and ripening crops.

Pink watches as his year's work tumbles onto a fast-moving belt and into a waiting semi truck. He's got most of his 1,600-acre potato fields yet to harvest on his 3,000-acre farm, spread over about 40 miles between Burbank and Basin City, Wash. And this thick smoke makes him nervous.

Just days after the massive Mendocino Complex Fire ignited in Northern California, fire officials were getting desperate in their emails to Verizon Wireless. As Santa Clara County firefighters mobilized, they discovered that Internet access had slowed to a crawl on the vehicle they were using to coordinate their response.

"Please work with us," Daniel Farrelly, a systems analyst for the Santa Clara Fire Department, entreated the company in an email dated July 30. "All we need is a plan that does not offer throttling or caps of any kind."

Since the Holy Fire ignited Monday in Orange County, Calif., the blaze ravaged more than 10,000 acres, destroyed at least 12 structures and forced more than 21,000 people to evacuate their homes by Thursday night. But amid all these grim and rising numbers, California's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has listed just one cause: "human."

With Eric Westervelt

We go to California, where the largest wildfire in the state’s history rages. As big parts of the West burn, what do the fires say about climate change?

Officials in California are warning that it will likely be September before they are able to contain the Mendocino Complex Fire — the largest in the state's history that has already scorched an area the size of Los Angeles.

Cal Fire pushed back its estimate for containment by two weeks for the massive blaze, which is made up of the adjacent River and Ranch fires. Officials had previously anticipated full containment by Aug. 15, but now say it will be Sept. 1.

Updated at 11:55 p.m. ET

As firefighters work to contain a deadly wildfire in Northern California, now the largest in the state's history, another fire is rapidly expanding, threatening new communities and prompting fresh evacuations.

A seventh person died in a fire in northern California on Saturday. The Carr fire, burning about 162 miles north of Sacramento, killed a power company lineman, according to a CBS affiliate. That fire had already killed six people, including a great-grandmother and two children.

California Gov. Jerry Brown says his state is in "uncharted territory" with the current slew of intense wildfires and he warns that climate change has made the situation "part of our ordinary experience."

"[The] predictions that I see, the more serious predictions of warming and fires to occur later in the century, 2040 or 2050, they're now occurring in real time," Brown said at a news conference on Wednesday in Sacramento.

"You can expect that — unfortunately — to continue intensifying in California and throughout the Southwest. We are part of that process," he said.

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