The Golden State has tried to stem the spike in coronavirus cases that began this summer as dozen forest fires burn and smoke makes breathing difficult. Then, as if enough crises hadn’t collided, another peril struck Southern California – an earthquake.
As more than 19,000 firefighters scrambled to contain multiple flames in the state, they grieved for one of their own, officials said.
A firefighter was killed on Thursday in El Dorado Fire, Southern California. The fire was started this month by a botched gender exposure party, according to the San Bernardino National Forest Service.
So far this year, the state has seen more than 3.4 million acres scorched, killed 26 people and burned hundreds of houses.
Numerous communities were forced to evacuate after the Los Angeles County̵
7;s Bobcat fire exploded on 91,000 acres, fueled by high winds.
Firefighters have warned that warning and dry conditions could increase the risk of fire in the coming days.
Smoke is a health hazard
The smoke from the devastating forest fires has spread for miles, creating dangerous air conditions in California and the surrounding states.
The air in San Francisco was so smoky earlier this week that it is one of the largest cities with the worst air quality in the world, according to IQAir, a group that tracks global air quality.
The smoke has hit other cities, including Los Angeles and even Yosemite National Park, which the National Park Service closed to all visitors last week because conditions were in the unhealthy and dangerous range.
The enormous amounts of dense smoke from forest fires have also reached the rest of the country and even northern Europe, according to the European Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).
Pandemic threatens their lives
The state appears to be making progress to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but the threat persists.
Hospital stays have dropped 22% in the past two weeks and the percentage of positive tests has dropped to 3.6% after cases spiked in the summer, Governor Gavin Newsom said in a news conference Wednesday.
“We’re moving forward and we’re seeing a decrease in the rate of spread and transmission of Covid-19,” Newsom said.
To date, there have been 782,828 coronavirus cases in California and 14,972 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
But forest fires have become a challenge for health officials. Newsom said access to the state’s mobile test sites has been hampered by air quality issues.
An earthquake made them even more fearful
Pictures rattled on the wall, plants were knocked over and some people woke up to beds, trembling.
An earthquake near the town of El Monte – east of downtown Los Angeles – occurred late Friday night, but was widespread in the San Diego, Valencia, and San Fernando Valley areas, according to the US Geological Survey.
“What a jolt! We felt it too. You don’t have to call 9-1-1 unless you have an emergency,” the San Gabriel Police Department tweeted.
While there were no reports of serious injury or damage, it was a reminder for those in the greater Los Angeles area that the risk of earthquakes is far from over.
“It’s a wake up call to remind you that we have earthquakes here. We have just enough disasters, I’m like everyone else, I’d rather have nothing else in 2020,” said Lucy Jones, a seismologist from the California Institute of Technology CNN subsidiary KABC.
While experts cannot fully predict quake aftershocks, the likelihood of a subsequent major quake is usually less than 5%, according to Jones.