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Wildfires Spark Debate On Climate Change Among Calif. Politicians

COSTA MESA ( — Senator Barbara Boxer said Thursday that wildfires like the fast-moving Silver Fire should be a wake-up call to the reality of climate change.

The Silver Fire near Banning grew to 14,000 acres Thursday and prompted additional mandatory evacuations. It was 20 percent contained as of Thursday evening.

A second wildfire near Wrightwood erupted Thursday around 1p.m., prompting mandatory evacuation of roughly 75 homes.

"Warmer temperatures combined with long dry seasons have resulted in more severe wildfires, and it's only going to get worse," said Boxer, who toured the fire site with officials Thursday. "They will tell you, the wildfire season is starting earlier, it's ending later."

Boxer charges that climate change is contributing to what could become one of the worst California fire seasons in a century, with hotter, dryer and longer summers fueling the fires throughout the west.

Speaking to Republicans in Congress who doubt the existence or extent of climate change, Boxer said "open your eyes, breathe the air, see what's going on. And get out of the fringe lane."

Among those doubters is Orange County Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

"I challenge Barbara Boxer to a debate on climate change, on global warming," the congressman said. "I challenge her to defend her positions, and not just call a bunch of names, not just try to scare the public into accepting her expansion of government power over our lives."

Rohrbacher also questioned whether a tragic fire scene was the appropriate place for a debate on global warming.

"I think this exemplifies the tactics -- the scare tactics -- of those who've been pushing this global warming fraud on us," said Rohrbacher. "They'll take something that is dramatic, like a fire, and try and use that; or a tornado, or a hurricane and say 'see, people are being hurt'."

The debate comes as the California Environmental Protection Agency released a report Thursday calling climate change an immediate and serious threat to California.

According to the report, in the past 50 years the most serious California wildfire seasons were 2003, 2007 and 2008, in terms of acreage burned. The report also notes that since the year 2000, almost 600,000 acres have burned each year, nearly double the number of the last 50 years.

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