In California, wildfires are very common across the state. During the fire season between June and October, naturally ignited and human-caused wildfires commonly expand to become catastrophic infernos. This year, the climate and lightning season led to fires being particularly devastating. As of September 9, the California wildfires burned more land than any year on record, with CalFire reporting 2.2 million acres burned. This number is far from the peak acreage to be destroyed, as fires will continue to burn for the next few weeks, detrimentally impacting people and the environment.
Currently, there are four large wildfires burning throughout California: the August Complex, SCU Lightning Complex, LNU Lightning Complex, and North Complex fires. The August Complex fire remains the deadliest of the four, becoming the largest fire in California’s history when it consumed 471,000 acres and currently spanning 746,000 acres. In addition to the fire’s direct impact on northern california, this blaze has caused the abysmal air quality in the Bay Area, Northern California, and much of the Western United States.
As a result of the multiple fires, twenty six people have died with a much higher indirect death toll. According to a Stanford University study, the effects of the fire have led to many fatalities caused by a compounding of factors which included fires and smoke. Professor of Earth System Science Marshall Burke reports, “A thousand died who would not have died if they hadn’t been exposed to this terrible air quality.” Those most vulnerable to the poor air quality air are people over age 65 with pre-existing health conditions such as cardiovascular or respiratory conditions. Burke ends his statement stating, “2020 was in some sense, no accident. Wildfires are getting worse because of a warming climate and as the climate continues to warm, we should unfortunately expect more years like this in the future.”
As many Californians are becoming weary of these wildfires becoming the new normal resulting in an increase in relocation from the state, it is important to note the factors in driving the previous severity of these fires: climate change. Governor Gavin Newsom countered the argument that the wildfires are perfectly normal and claimed those who believed differently were in denial about the effects of the climate emergency crisis in a speech after he toured a burned area in Northern California. Destructive wildfires are becoming the new normal due to this human-caused climate increasing the temperatures and making vegetation drier. According to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA, California wildfires have increased in size by eight times, and the acres burned has increased by 500%. As temperatures continue to rise, wildfire seasons will only continue to break records bringing many to advocating for climate reform.The devastation of the wildfires in these past months will continue to impact many communities all along the West coast. If you are looking to help those affected, visit this link of organizations to donate to: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/563422/california-wildfire-victims-how-to-help.