Environment

News about energy and the environment

USFS

Light rain, cooler temperatures and higher humidity in the last 24 hours have helped firefighters in their effort to contain the Rough Fire. The blaze has now consumed 139,000 acres and is 40 percent contained, though officials expect the containment number to rise later today. 

While the rain has helped the fight, it wasn't been enough to extinguish the fire. It also has forced firefighters to change their tactics, by making it more difficult to intentionally set brush on fire in efforts to contain the main blaze by depriving it of fuel. 

William Shewbridge, Creative Commons / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

The Rough Fire burning in California’s Sierra Nevada has consumed over 110,000 acres of forest. The blaze is now threatening a treasured grove of ancient trees.

Firefighters in Kings Canyon National Park are clearing the area around the Grant Grove of Giant Sequoia trees as the Rough Fire burns miles away.  Fire official Michael Johnson says while Giant Sequoias typically can endure fire, the state’s drought has stressed the forest.

The smoke from the Rough Fire near Hume Lake has now spread throughout communities in the San Joaquin Valley. As FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports, this is causing the Valley’s air pollution to spike to potentially dangerous levels.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District issued a health alert for the rest of the week for several counties including Fresno, Madera and the valley portion of Kern County. They’re recommending people to limit their outdoor activities.

Courtesy of US Forest Service / InciWeb

Update: Thursday September 10th 4:00 PM
The Rough Fire continues to grow today as new mandatory evacuation orders are in place for Grant Grove and the community of Wilsonia in Kings Canyon National Park. The fire has now consumed over 110,000 acres and is just 29 percent contained. The Red Cross has opened an evacuation shelter in Sanger for residents displaced by the blaze. 

Original post: Wednesday September 9th

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

While the Rough Fire has now consumed over 100,000 acres of forest, a valiant effort from firefighters has thus far helped save the community of Hume Lake from the blaze.  FM89's Ezra David Romero takes us to the front lines to hear exactly how that happened. 

On a reporting trip two weeks ago in the Sierra Nevada I was told to evacuate the Hume Lake Christian Camps area as the Rough Fire burned a mile and half away from the camp. Smoke was thick and ash began to fall from the sky.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The lack of rain and snow over the past four years has affected the agriculture industry statewide. That impact includes one of the smallest farmed creatures: the honeybee. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports that with a lack of flowers to pollinate because of weather conditions bees are struggling and some beekeepers are even leaving the state.

As Gene Brandi and I approach a colony of honeybees near a field of blooming alfalfa east of Los Banos he uses the smoke from a canister of burning burlap to calm the bees, which in turn quiets my nerves.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California’s drought is having a devastating effect on its forests. Aerial surveys around the state show more than 20 million dead trees so far. And the drought has a partner in crime – the pine beetle. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, if this deadly combination continues it could drastically change California’s forested landscape.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The Fresno City Council could carve out an exemption from water conservation rules for backyard fruit and vegetable gardens. The goal is to encourage more urban farming.

The exemption, proposed by Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria, would allow for daily drip irrigation of backyard gardens.

Soria says current watering rules are too restrictive, and could be deterring people from growing their own food especially in poor areas.

Courtesy of Steve German

The lightning ignited Rough Fire is still only three percent contained at 32,400 acres even though it started on the last day of July. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports that the blaze isn’t only affecting the community of Hume Lake, but backpackers as well.

Twenty-five hikers finally made it out of the back country of the Sierra Nevada today after being trapped at roads end in Kings Canyon National Park for up two days.

Courtesy US Forest Service / InciWeb

August 25

The lightning ignited Rough Fire is still only 17 percent contained, even though the burn area has grown to 51,794 acres. There are 1,984 firefighters using 138 engines and 10 helicopters to fight the blaze.  

In an interview Tuesday morning Valley Public Radio's Joe Moore spoke with Rough Fire Spokesman Mike Pruitt about the blaze. Reporter Ezra David Romero also shares about his experience at the fire and shares the story of 25 backpackers who had to hike out of the backcountry. Listen to the interview and story above. 

California Drought: NASA Says Land Sinking Faster In San Joaquin Valley

Aug 19, 2015
Credit www.usbr.gov

A new report from NASA shows the San Joaquin Valley is sinking much faster than ever before. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

With reduced surface water available because of the drought, more groundwater is pumped.

As the underground aquifers are tapped, land surfaces sink. 

While subsidence in California isn't new, the report from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the rate has accelerated.

US Forest Service Facebook

The community of Hume Lake is under a mandatory evacuation order today after the southern flank of the Rough Fire crossed the Kings River. So far, the lightning sparked blaze has consumed over 23,600 acres. Tony Botti with the Fresno County Sheriff's Department says the biggest concern is the safety of area residents. His department ordered the evacuation late Tuesday afternoon.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

There’s been a lot of noise around El Niño in the news lately. We don’t know if it’ll cure California’s drought, but in places prone to flooding officials are already prepping for the worst.  FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports on why officials hope to dig deep to prevent flooding and restore the aquifer.

At the moment the mood is hopeful at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Hanford.   

"National Weather Service, this is Jerald How may I help you," says Jerald Meadows, warning coordination meteorologist with the San Joaquin Valley Weather Forecast Office. 

Phil Welker, DRS Technologies

The aging air fleet the U.S. Forest Service uses to fight fires in California is posing a deadly danger to the pilots and the firefighters on the ground. Now, for the first time in decades, new planes are coming into service to help battle the blaze and make firefighting safer.

The planes are re-purposed Coast Guard planes turned into air tankers that spray fire retardant. That slows the speed and intensity of the fires. Jennifer Jones with the U.S. forest Service explains how the planes will help and why it took so long for get bring them into service.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Spurred on by a request by local oil industry leaders, Kern County is currently exploring a plan that would dramatically revamp the way the county permits oil and gas wells. Under an environmental study that's currently in the works, getting a new well permit could become as easy as getting a county building permit.

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