Fires Sweeping California Once Again

Jenna Skanberg, Staff Writer

California, with it’s warm, dry climate has faced destruction from wildfires almost annually. However, in 2017 and 2018, specific weather conditions have allowed California’s fire season to start earlier and end later than it has in years before. Now, in 2019, violent fires have scorched California land once again.

The California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection reports that, as of November 11, 2019, 198,392 acres of land have been charred by wildfires. This has resulted in the destruction of 732 structures, which undoubtedly makes these fires more damaging than they have been in decades before. Wreckage is especially prominent among people living in forested areas. On the bright side, firefighters working tirelessly across the state have contained the most sizable fires; however, there is still concern that additional flames could erupt before all fires are put out completely.

Currently, the most concerning fire is The Maria fire in Ventura County. The Los Angeles Times reports that, as of November 2, the fire was only 30% contained. Despite this, firefighters are hopeful. Offshore breezes are expected to increase humidity 20-30%, which would make this fire much easier to contain. Before the change in wind direction, humidity and 60-70 mph winds spread fires quickly and made them nearly impossible to put out.

Many theories circulate discussion among people concerned about the surplus of wildfires. One possible contribution to the fire is climate change. An article by CNBC states, “Climate change is exacerbating the chance of bigger wildfires in California, drying out vegetation that serves as fuel for firestorms.” To further explain, increasing temperature and drought dries out forests, which increases the tendency for the ground to catch fire. This circumstance, paired heavy winds, results in fires that expand quickly and easily. Additionally, increased power line usage, which has spawned due to growing population in California, is believed to catalyze fires. The Pacific Gas & Electric company in Northern California recognized this issue early on, so they shut off power lines in densely populated areas for hours at a time in order to reduce sparks. This plan, while effective in theory, could not actually stop fires from starting, as an estimated 95% of fires this year had man-made causes. Altogether, numerous factors could have contributed to the mass destruction of these fires, so people must discuss ways to prevent major fires in the future.

Ultimately, California wildfires brought distress to many people this year. From the numerous structures damaged, to the three reported casualties, the tragedy the fires brought is immeasurable. Moving forward, Californian communities will make changes to homes, structures, and power lines in order to reduce the damage that these fires cause. All are hoping for relief from the fires that, in recent years, have brought so much wreckage to innocent people.

 

Information gathered CNBC, California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Detection, and LA Times.