An evacuee filmed his daring escape from a massive forest fire

The Valley Fire is wreaking havoc in California. Now at an estimated 61,000 acres, according to the Los Angeles Times, the fire spread through the town of Middleton and the surrounding area so quickly that evacuating residents had little time to escape with their lives, much less gather their belongings.

One lucky resident escaped the fire with flames licking at his back bumper and filmed his nightmarish drive. The terrifying video he captured Sunday night reveals what it’s like to drive through a devastated hellscape that is the middle of a raging forest fire.

“We did wait way too long to get out. We are the last house at the very back of the Springs, down in a gulch. There was no smoke or ash coming our way, and there were no sirens or air support nearby, so we honestly didn’t know how close it was,” YouTube uploader MulletFive wrote in a comment. “Once we drove up out of our gulch, we realised how close it was … we ended up leaving WAY too late. In retrospect, we should have gone out for a drive to find out what was going on, but we were a little preoccupied with packing.”

The driver (possibly mulletfive, though some of the footage seems to have been filmed from the passenger seat) filmed footage of their neighbourhood’s blazing homes, cars, and fences.

Below, you can just about make out the slope of a house’s roof through the massive flames.

Flames roar on either side of the road, and the burning trees cast an eerie glow on what otherwise might be a pitch-black night. At the end of the video, you can see an entire hillside ablaze.

Since it exploded about two hours west of Sacramento on Saturday afternoon, the Valley Fire destroyed an estimated 400 buildings, displaced about 13,000 residents, and killed one person, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In ideal conditions, wildfires move quickly. When it’s hot, dry, and there’s a lot of fuel, it can take just seconds for them to spread. California’s ongoing 4-year drought, the worst on record in about 1,200 years, has left plenty of dry fuel for fires to feed on.

The tweet below illustrates just how quickly the Valley Fire exploded. In about 24 hours, it had jumped from 50 acres to 50,000 acres — one thousand times its original size.

Wildfires have scorched more than 8.7 million acres of land already this year, according to data from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). The all-time record is 9.8 million acres in 2006.

As climate change leads to hotter and drier temperatures, we’re likely to see wildfires that are more serious and more unpredictable. Former firefighter Nicky Sundt warns in a Weather Channel video that massive wildfires and longer fire seasons will become the new normal.

“In the 70s and 80s, the fires weren’t as big, they weren’t as intense and the fire seasons were shorter,” Sundt, now the director of climate change science and policy integration for the World Wildlife Fund, says in a video for the Weather Channel. “As the climate has warmed, fires have gotten a lot bigger, and they’re burning hotter, and their behaviour is more erratic and more extreme.”

Many experts and officials agree with him. A recent study published in the journal Nature found that climate change may be contributing to wildfires around the world that burn more land and last longer.

These numbers may seem abstract, but for firefighters and residents in places like Middletown, it’s very real.

Watch the whole video, uploaded to YouTube by Mulletfive below:

(via Popular Mechanics)


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