USA — When the peculiar lightning storms hit Northern California last month and sparked thousands of wildfires across the states rugged and almost impenetrable backcountry terrain, Humboldt County was largely spared.
But neighboring Trinity, Shasta and Mendocino counties werent so lucky and have seen tens of thousands of acres scorched.
Like the intense heat radiating out from the many fires, the catastrophic effects are being felt far away from the immediate areas ablaze.
As of Saturday, the states top fire agency, CAL FIRE, reported that theres been approximately 139,800 acres burned this year in those three counties alone.
Fueled by an unseasonably dry landscape and record warm temperatures, what has followed in the wake of the lightning strikes has been an unprecedented and earlier start to Californias regularly lengthy and destructive fire season.
Thankfully, despite the state being strapped for cash and embroiled in a predictable budget war in Sacramento, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has scraped together the resources needed to tackle the fires.
There are more than 11,000 firefighters deployed and nearly all of the fires have been contained.
Even President George Bush touched down briefly in Redding recently to visit with fire officials as part of his emergency declaration that has brought financial support and resources from the federal government.
Meanwhile, this years blazes, which have destroyed 158 residences and other buildings statewide, threaten to break records.
Theyre not the kind of records anyone ever wants to see broken.
So far, its more than 1.1 million acres burned and new fires are being reported this weekend from a new round of spiteful lightning.
While the loss to property and the environment is unfortunate, nature heals itself after time and resilient Californians will surely bounce back and rebuild.
But no price tag can be calculated for the tragic loss of lives as a result of this or any other years fires.
And sadly, there have already been several.
A firefighter lost his life in a swimming incident on the Trinity River on July 8, and now, a firefighter from Washington State was killed Friday night in the line of duty while doing mop-up operations near Junction City.
Californians will be forever indebted to the courageous men and women who have traveled from in and outside of the state to risk their lives and brave some of the most Godforsaken and mean-spirited topography on the planet to battle fires.
Its also worth mentioning that the California National Guard troops some of whom have departed their jobs and family to risk their lives in Iraq in a deadly war against a determined insurgency have for the first time in the states history expanded their usual firefighting support role and joined the ranks of firefighters on the fire lines.
As crews continue to mop up existing fires across the state, fire officials are bracing for more fires that will likely come as the forests continue to dry in the hot, dry summers.
Theres not much that can be done about this seasons devastating wildfires, but theres discussion in Sacramento being held to look at how future fires can be prevented.
California state Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, whose district includes Siskiyou and Del Norte counties, has called on the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection to take immediate and emergency actions.
Aanestad wants the state to adopt recommendations made by the Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission to sidestep the current complex and confusing regulatory environment to put in place coordinated and consistent method of fuels treatment and removal.
While those in Sacramento fight for solutions, thank you to all of those firefighters who are out there every day eating dirt and inhaling smoke.