California wildfires reach ‘avocado capital of the world’ as thousands flee the flames
The massive wildfires causing chaos in California have ripped through the area described as the ‘avocado capital of the world’.
At least one person has been killed and more than 500 buildings have been destroyed by the wall of flame surging through western America.
Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency in the area, freeing up aid and disaster relief efforts in the state.
And Virginia Pesola, 70, has been named as the first victim of the disaster after she died from smoke inhalation and burns, as well as crash injuries.
Farmers fear that the flames that have covered more than 132,000 acres have also ravaged much of the area’s avocado crop.
As hundreds of thousands of people evacuate the region, experts have warned that the mostly family-owned orchards in Ventura County have also suffered devastating losses – though it is too soon to know the extent of the damage.
However, the biggest problem is not the flames but the 80mph winds blowing in from the desert, which have knocked the fruit off trees.
Avocados are deemed unfit for human consumption once they are on the ground due to food safety regulations.
John Krist, chief executive of the Ventura County Farm Bureau, said: ‘A lot of that fruit everybody was looking forward to harvesting next year is laying on the ground.’
The fruits are held by a long stem, and are normally full-sized and heavy in December although they are not harvested until the new year.
As a result, they are more susceptible to being knocked off by high-speed winds, University of California farm advisor Ben Faber said.
California produces about 90% of the USA’s avocado crop.
Even trees that do not appear to have been scorched may collapse from internal heat damage at a later date.
Authorities said 1,000 firefighters have been battling the flames with help from a fleet of air tankers and helicopters.
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