U.S. firefighter dies while battling Southern California wildfire

?Climate change is increasing the vulnerability of forests to wildfires ?

A firefighter died Thursday while battling a massive wildfire that was sparked by a gender reveal party two weeks ago in Southern California, bringing the total number of fatalities to 26 so far this year in wildfires across the western U.S. state, authorities said on Friday.

The San Bernardino National Forest Service officials confirmed the death of the firefighter due to the El Dorado Fire, which is currently estimated at 21,678 acres (87.7 square km) with 66 percent containment. The blaze was caused by a smoke generating pyrotechnic device used during a celebration to reveal the sex of a baby in San Bernardino County on Sept. 5.

The name of the firefighter is being withheld pending notification of next of kin, the San Bernardino National Forest Service said.

“Our deepest sympathies are with the family, friends and fellow firefighters during this time,” tweeted the San Bernardino National Forest Service, adding that the cause is under investigation.

The El Dorado Fire is one of the major wildfires burning around California. Over 18,500 firefighters remain on the frontlines fighting wildfires in the state as of Friday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been over 7,900 wildfires that have burned over 3.4 million acres in California. Since Aug. 15, when California’s fire activity elevated, more than 5,500 structures have been destroyed, the department said in its daily wildfire report.

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