California's drought – and subsequent beetle infestation – is likely exacerbating fires across the state, including the Valley Fire, which on Thursday had burned 73,000 acres and was 35 percent contained.
That’s the assessment of the US Department of Forestry, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, which described how insect infestations dry out vegetation and create forests that can more easily light up in flame, thus attracting more bark beetles, and so on.
Cal Fire ranked the Valley Fire, burning since Saturday in Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties, as the state’s ninth worst wildfire in California history, so far destroying 585 homes and killing two people.
He said there's been heavy beetle activity in Lake County, and around Clear Lake, where the Valley fire is blazing. A U.S. Forest Service survey of the region in and around the Bay Area in June found that though tree mortality was increasing almost everywhere, the worst region by far was an area south of the lake.
A report released earlier this year from the U.S. Forest Service estimated the drought has killed off at least 12.5 million trees in California's national forests. Scientists say they expect the die-off to continue as the drought persists.