The Golden State has tried to contain the wave of coronavirus cases that began in the summer, as dozens of fires are burning and the smoke makes it difficult to breathe. Then, as if not enough crises had erupted, Southern California was gripped by another danger: an earthquake.
While more than 19,000 firefighters scrambled to contain more fires in the state, one of them had to mourn, officials said.
A firefighter was killed Thursday in Southern California’s El Dorado Fire, the blaze sparked this month by a failed gender reveal party, according to the San Bernardino National Forest Service.
The state has seen more than 3.4 million acres burned this year, killing 26 people and reducing hundreds of homes to ash.
Numerous communities were ordered to evacuate after the Bobcat fire in Los Angeles County exploded to 91
,000 acres, fueled by strong winds.
Firefighters have warned that alert and drought conditions could increase the danger of fire in the coming days.
Smoking puts their health at risk
Smoke from the devastating wildfires has spread for miles, creating dangerous weather conditions in California and neighboring states.
The air was so smoky in San Francisco earlier this week that it ranked among the top major cities with the worst air quality in the world, according to IQAir, a group that monitors global air quality.
The smoke 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 unhealthy and dangerous.
The huge amount of thick smoke from the fires also swept through the rest of the country and even reached Northern Europe, according to data from Europe’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).
The pandemic is threatening their lives
The state appears to be making progress to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but the threat persists.
Admissions have dropped 22 percent in the past two weeks and the rate of returning positive tests has dropped to 3.6 percent after an increase in cases over the summer, Governor Gavin Newsom said at a news conference Wednesday.
“We are moving forward and are seeing a decline in the spread and transmission rate of Covid-19,” Newsom said.
So far, there have been 782,828 cases of coronavirus in California and 14,972 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
But the fires have become a challenge for health officials. Newsom said access to the state’s mobile testing sites was affected by air quality issues.
An earthquake added even more anxiety
Pictures rattled on the wall, plants were cut down, and some people woke up with shaking beds.
An earthquake struck near the town of El Monte, east of downtown Los Angeles, late Friday night, but was felt widely in San Diego, Valencia and the San Fernando Valley areas, the United States Geological Service said.
“What a shock! We felt it too. There is no need to call 9-1-1 unless you have an emergency”, tweeted the San Gabriel Police Department.
While there have been no reports of serious injuries or damage, it was a reminder to those in the greater Los Angeles area that the earthquake risk is far from over.
“It’s a wake-up call, it reminds you that we have earthquakes here. We have enough disasters going on right now, I’m like everyone else, I’d rather not have something else in 2020,” Lucy Jones, a California Institute of Technology seismologist , he told CNN affiliate KABC.
While experts cannot fully predict the aftershocks of the earthquake, Jones says, the chances of a subsequent larger earthquake are generally less than 5%.