Skip to content Skip to footer

Forty-Eight Dead and Counting From California’s Deadliest Wildfire

The Camp Fire’s size and intensity is proving what climate science has been saying all along.

Firefighters try to keep flames from a burning home from spreading to a neighboring apartment complex as they battle the Camp Fire on November 9, 2018, in Paradise, California.

Part of the Series

When it began, the Camp Fire in Northern California was growing at a rate of 80 football fields every minute.

It has now killed at least 48 people, scorched 130,000 acres of land, and torched thousands of houses and commercial buildings.

And that isn’t the only fire raging across the now chronically parched Golden State.
Near Los Angeles the Woolsey Fire, which ignited last Thursday and doubled in size overnight, has torched 100,000 acres and killed at least two people.

More than 200,000 people have been evacuated because of those two fires alone.

The Hill Fire in Ventura County burned 4,500 acres.

At the time of this writing, there were at least 15 uncontained wildfires burning across the state.

While science has shown for years now that human-caused climate change is causing wildfires to become more frequent, larger and hotter, the president of the United States still managed to prioritize climate denial over providing comfort and support to those who need it most during the crisis in California.

“This Is the New Abnormal.”

While families were literally running for their lives from wildfires that were burning people alive, particularly elderly people who were unable to flee, President Donald Trump threatened to cut off federal disaster funding to California.

On November 10, Trump tweeted: “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

In response, Brian Rice, president of the California Professional Firefighters, issued a statement saying, in part:

The president’s message attacking California and threatening to withhold aid to the victims of the cataclysmic fires is Ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines.

At a time when our every effort should be focused on vanquishing the destructive fires and helping the victims, the president has chosen instead to issue an uninformed political threat aimed squarely at the innocent victims of these cataclysmic fires.

Rice revealed the inaccuracy of Trump’s claim that California was responsible for poor forest management, reminding the president that more than half of California’s forests are under federal management.

“It is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management,” Rice added, “not California.”

Trump, who has infamously called climate change “a hoax,” more recently has claimed that it might not be “manmade,” and has said that it might “change back again” sooner or later.

California Gov. Jerry Brown, in response to Trump’s threats to cut federal funding to California for the crisis and speaking about the fires, told the media, “This is not the new normal.” He was referring to a phrase many journalists and state leaders have used to describe the last two deadly, longer-than-normal California fire seasons over recent years. “This is the new abnormal,” Brown said, “and this new abnormal will continue certainly in the next 10 to 15 years.”

During the press conference where he hit back at Trump’s comments, Brown added: “Managing all the forests everywhere we can does not stop climate change, and those who deny that definitely are contributing to the tragedies that we are witnessing and will continue to witness.”

Underscoring the severity of the crisis in California, a new report by Inside Climate News revealed how scientists have warned that California’s wildfire and other climate change warnings are still too conservative.

As severe as California’s future wildfire projections are, the report showed that scientists said the fires are already consistently surpassing projections.

“A climate scientist says the reality on the ground is surpassing what a government report projected just months ago in assessing the links between climate change and an increasing frequency and severity of wildfires in the state,” the report stated.


Truthout needs to raise $19k before midnight to support our work. Will you chip in a few bucks to get us closer?

As we face increasing political scrutiny and censorship for our reporting, your tax-deductible donation is critical in allowing us to do our work.

Please do what you can to help.