Thousands Evacuated As Uncontained Wildfire Rages through San Bernardino County

By Yessenia Funes Aug 18, 2016

California’s Blue Cut Fire has forced more than 82,000 people to leave their homes in San Bernardino County as a result of a wildfire which has been burning for two days. 

The fire began on August 16 north of San Bernardino, leading Gov. Jerry Brown to issue an emergency proclamation for the predominantly Latinx county, which also has a 20 percent poverty rate (the national average is approximately 15 percent). The wildfire—the state’s 3,874th this year—is currently 31,689 acres and only 4 percent contained, putting an estimated 34,500 homes at risk. The state does not have a count of how many structures have already been damaged or destroyed.

San Bernardino County faces a smoke advisory because the South Coast Air Quality Management District says air quality may reach “unhealthy levels in areas directly impacted by smoke.” A Yale study published earlier this month in the journal Climatic Change explained that as climate change causes more wildfires, by mid-century, more than 82 million people in the western U.S. will be exposed to “high levels of pollution in the coming decades.”

“Our study illustrates that smoke waves are likely to be longer, more intense, and more frequent under climate change,” said Jia Coco Liu, the study’s lead author, according to the university’s release. “This raises critical health, ecological, and economic concerns. Identifying communities that will be most affected in the future will inform development of fire management strategies and disaster preparedness programs.”

Many low-income and communities of color in California already face poor air quality from refineries and oil and gas wells. Pollution from wildfires will only add to this condition.