California skies glow orange as wildfire rages across western US

The view east from San Francisco's Embarcadero.

New Delhi (NVI): Residents of San Francisco and several other cities across the US’ West Coast awoke to eerie orange skies after clouds of smoke from multiple nearby wildfires blocked all sunlight and triggered a downpour of ash and soot.

San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley were blanketed in orange to rust-tinted skies as strong winds continued to carry smoke and ash from the wildfires to the northern parts of California, according to media reports.

While the sky was tinted a light yellow on Tuesday, it darkened to a deep orange by the next morning.

Fires have ravaged the state in the past month, burning at least 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of land. A heatwave at the weekend provided perfect conditions for an eruption of new and dangerous blazes across the state.

Three people were found dead on Wednesday evening in Butte County, where the North Complex fire – one of more than two dozen in California – has spread at a ferocious rate.

The fire, in Northern California, has been burning for more than three weeks before high winds and soaring temperatures helped it surge back again this week, crossing about 25 miles (40 kilometres) of mountainous terrain to destroy scores of homes.

The spread and speed of the hurtling flames are defying the efforts of rescue teams.

Three of the five largest fires in California’s history are burning now and more than 14,000 firefighters are overwhelmed.

The recent wildfires have caused a 25-day stretch of unhealthy air quality in the San Francisco Bay Area, setting a new record in the region. The record was previously set in 2018, when plumes of smoke from the devastating Camp Fire caused a sharp decline in air quality for 14 straight days.

This is the fourth year of a climate-crisis fire season amplified in duration, scale, and intensity, and it is already worse than the last three in most respects.

It comes on the heels of unprecedented heat throughout most of California, with temperatures most of us never expected – 121F (49.4C) in Los Angeles County last week.