California Wildfires Persist

Jane Heise, Managing Editor

In 2019 alone, California experienced 6,402 fires , according to Cal Fire. In the last two years, 100 people in California have perished due to wildfires, marking the 2017 and 2018 California wildfires as the deadliest in history. According to WorldWildLife.org, the naturally-occuring and healthy process of wildfires removes dead trees and clears out space for new vegetation, replenishing the area and ensuring the maintenance of a healthy habitat. In recent years, however, climate change has contributed to a number of factors resulting in the dangerous escalation of California’s fires, resulting in the destruction of habitats, homes and lives. 

According to National Geographic, 15 of the 20 largest fires in California’s history have occurred since 2000. Uncoincidentally, global temperatures rose one degree Fahrenheit in the last century; California’s rose by three degrees Fahrenheit. This offers one explanation for the increased intensity of the state’s frequent fires. Rising temperatures coupled with California’s debilitating droughts dry out vegetation, creating the perfect conditions for a deadly blaze. 

California’s natural wildfires typically occur in the fall after dry fauna collects during the summer; however, the state’s rising summer temperatures have lengthened the dry season, resulting in an increase in flammable vegetation. Today, the total fire-affected area in California during the summer months comes in at around eight times higher than 40-50 years ago. The unnatural seasonal changes disturb the wintertime as well. Due to California’s state-wide temperature increases, lower snowfall during winters and faster melting periods throughout the spring  extend the dry season, drying out vegetation and providing ample time for prime fire conditions to develop and consequently wreak havoc upon California’s residents.

Throughout the month of Nov., the state of California has seen three fires: the Sobrante Fire in Riverside County, the Ranch Fire in Tehama County and the Eagle Fire in Lake County. Altogether they burned 2,628 acres of land. The state saw 55 fires in Oct. this year, burning a total of 119,814 acres of land. 

The change in winds makes matters worse for California. As warm winds blow east to west, the rapid air movement drastically increases the supply of oxygen, accelerating the fire along its path. These winds can transform a small wildfire into a deadly blaze, which has been the case with some of California’s worst fires. 

The current climate crisis’ effects can be felt around the world. The wildfires in California will only get stronger and disrupt the state further if actions are not taken to remedy this imminent issue.

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