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America's Future up in Flames

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page.

Little by little climate change - the elephant in the room - is seeping into the daily news cycle. For Americans it began to resonate with last year's epic drought, an echo of the Dustbowl era and still ongoing, followed by Superstorm Sandy that slammed into New York, helping propel Barack Obama, whose Administration has been woefully inadequate in tackling climate change, back into the White House.

This week it is the Rim Fire, a monster conflagration relentlessly advancing through dense oak and conifer forests into Yosemite National Park, the iconic American natural treasure.

Cockpit footage taken from a National Guard C-130 Hercules, as it banks towards a vast pall of smoke, indicates the fire's immensity. "That is unreal," says one of the crew as the plane makes a low-level pass to dump retardant.

By press time the fire, roaring out of the Stanislaus National Forest into northwest Yosemite, had consumed 80,628ha (Auckland Metro area is 55,920ha) as 4927 fire personnel, backed by 540 fire engines, 83 bulldozers, 23 helicopters, plus C-130s and DC-10 jets, struggled to stop it.

"It's being pushed by a wind out of the west," said Lynne Tolmachoff, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Conditions remain exceptionally dry, although a cooling air flow forecast for the weekend may help firefighters. The fast-moving blaze has raged out of control, tearing through tree tops as a "crown fire", since August 17. Its origin is unknown, but lightning strikes often cause wildfires.  


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