Growing wildfire engulfs homes in drought-stricken Southern California
Driving the news: The brush fire has burned at least 24 coastal homes as winds caused it to quickly spread across dry vegetation after igniting mid-afternoon near Aliso Wood Canyon, between Laguna Niguel and Laguna Beach, according to the Orange County Fire Authority.
- The Orange County Sheriff's Office issued mandatory evacuation orders over the blaze, named the Coastal Fire, in the drought-stricken area for homes in the Laguna Niguel's Pacific Island area — where several multimillion-dollar mansions are located, CBS News reports.
- "Moisture is so low that those fires are taking off and running," Orange County Fire Chief Brian Fennessy said at a briefing on Wednesday.
By the numbers: "More than 4,100 wildland firefighters and support personnel are assigned to incidents in the Southwest and Southern areas," per the National Interagency Fire Center.
- Twelve large fires were burning across seven U.S. states, mostly in the Southwest and South — including three in New Mexico, where President Biden last week approved a disaster declaration requested by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), as the state endures weeks of early season wildfires.
The big picture: A heat wave combined with long-term drought and relentlessly high winds is yielding a historically prolonged period of high wildfire risk across much of the Southwest, and human-caused climate change is exacerbating the problem, Axios' Andrew Freedman writes.
- Human-caused climate change, along with other factors, has caused a dramatic increase in the occurrence of large wildfires across the West and Southwest, per Freedman.
Meanwhile, California entered the dry season with its water resources in a precarious position, having seen its driest start to the year on record.
- Southern California officials last month declared a water shortage emergency for the first time ever and imposed unprecedented outdoor water usage restrictions on the region's roughly 6 million residents due to the ongoing drought.