• Mya Tan

California Wildfires

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

Devastating wildfires have been rampant all on the west coast of the United States, causing lots of forests to burn down and the air to become extremely polluted. The wildfires this year have been said to be so much worse than it has ever been before.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, it has been said that the record for the amount of land burned in a single season was two million acres until now. The total number of acres burned in this season got to four million. Cal Fire announced as of October 4 that California has seen over 8,200 fires along with more than 8,454 structures and 31 facilities destroyed in just this year alone. There were at least 23 major fires in the state of California, and around 17,000 firefighters fighting with difficulty to contain them.

The weather has much to do with why it is hard to contain these fires. Because the fire got a hold of more oxygen due to wind, fire activity increased and the fire was 51% contained and it covered an entire area of 985,304 acres as of Sunday morning October 4. Dry, warm, and windy weather patterns play into how active the fires can get. It doesn't take much to start a wildfire when you have dry conditions and hot weather. Due to the severity of the fires, 24 people died in the state of California alone and around 15,000 people remain under evacuation orders for the Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma counties. Officials worry the numbers will continuously rise in the next couple weeks due to more places beginning to open up and become accessible to rescuers and investigators.

This year’s fire season has caused thick smoke to cover the entire west coast’s skies that caused the sun to be blocked out. The air quality became extremely unhealthy making it immensely difficult for anyone to be able to go outside. The smoke has polluted the air, making it toxic across much of the state. Because of this, national forests are closed along with some places that are treasured the most by residents that have the possibility of getting destroyed. Climate scientists warn that it is likely that it won’t be a season-ending storm and that this year may soon seem mild as the world continues to heat up as a result of the release of greenhouse gases from human activity. Towns in California, Oregon, and Washington have been set ablaze, making the lives of the people much harder along with the Coronavirus outbreak happening as well.

Not so surprisingly, most of the fires in California are caused by people. In the case of The El Dorado Fire, an area that has grown to be more than 10,000 acres was set on fire by a family that used a so called “pyrotechnic device” to celebrate the gender of their newborn baby. While that was definitely not a normal way for a fire to start, most fires are said to occur due to more mundane human actions. One way includes the soot that emerges from driving cars getting into dry vegetation. This was what happened in the case of the Apple Fire in Southern California this year. Others have been known to be caused by power transmission lines or any other utility equipment that can emit sparks and set off fires in really dry areas, just like how Pacific GAs and Electric equipment caused a fire in 2018 known as the Deadly Camp Fire.

Fires in Oregon have been ignited by trees falling down onto power lines, and it's being driven by climate change. Climate change determines how big the fires will be, how quickly they can spread, and how hard it will be to prevent them as they cause havoc on communities. It definitely doesn't help the fires when there is a record breaking heat wave occurring at the same exact time. Scientists have said because of our bipolar weather, raging back and forth between hot, dry weather, and heavy rain that speeds up the growth of plants, it becomes fuel for fires when the weather turns hot and dry.

So how can we prevent these insane wildfires from happening? Here are 5 ways to do your part in stopping them. If you notice any kind of fire burning out of control, immediately call your local fire department to respond to the fire. After using a firepit or making a campfire, put it out. Under no circumstances is it a good idea to leave a fire unattended for any period of time. Keep your tents or any kind of flammable, loose kindling branches away from the fire. Never throw lit cigarettes or any kind of smoking materials out of your car or on the ground. They have enough heat to create a spark if you carelessly flick a cigarette butt onto the floor. When you are using propane to refill stoves or heaters, make sure you do so with extreme caution by waiting to fill them once they have completely cooled. Fireworks are a huge reason fires start in the summer. Staying away from woods when lighting fireworks and being in a clear area is the best way to go about it.

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