California's Wildfires Problem

December 14, 2018

In California, wildfires are becoming an increasingly dangerous and destructive problem. Just this year, over 50 major fires have burned in California alone, killing hundreds of people and destroying massive amounts of land. Currently, there are two massive wildfires raging. The Camp Fire, in Northern California is the larger one, covering 151,0002 acres of land and destroying thousands of homes. The Woolsey Fire directly outside of Los Angeles, is the smaller one, covering 96,000 acres of land.
Wildfires in California are much larger and more common than most places around the world. There are four major factors in California that attribute to these disasters: its dry forest climate, the Santa Ana winds, previous wildfire suppression, and California’s dense population. California’s climate is perfect for wildfires. The hot, dry air combined with the abundant  forests of California are basically fuel for massive, violent fires. Then there are the Santa Ana winds. These are strong, dry winds that come in from the Sierra Mountains. These winds help wildfires spread like crazy by pushing the colder, more humid, pacific air away, and replacing it with extremely dry, warm air, which fuels the fires even more. These winds also allow the fires to “jump” roads and less vegetated parts of the forest, where there is less fuel for the fire to spread. On top of that, since people stopped previous wildfires from spreading, there are certain parts of California where there is too much vegetation. These are areas that wildfires haven’t touched in years, so they are now overflowing with fuel for these fires to spread to. 

But how can people prevent wildfires if they are the ones that start them in the first place? California is the largest state in the U.S. with 40 million residents throughout the state or about 244 people per square mile. Because of this immense population, over 95% of California wildfires are caused by humans, compared to the worldwide average of about 85%. Even though California has put in place many laws to help prevent wildfires, there is simply not enough that can be done to stop wildfires from forming. 

This California wildfire season has been the most destructive season ever recorded. Over 2,500 square miles have been burned to the ground by over 7,500 different fires. The Camp Fire is the single most destructive and deadly fire in California history. An estimated 14,000 residences have been destroyed and 83 people have died. It completely leveled the small town of Paradise in Northern California, and came close to destroying several others. It was finally contained on November 25th, 17 days after its beginning. The Woolsey Fire is a smaller fire, but it has a potential to become an even worse fire than the other. Currently, it burns in Malibu, a highly populated area outside of Los Angeles. Over 250,000 people have been evacuated, and many famous people have lost their homes. It poses as an immense threat to almost half a million people but despite their best efforts, firemen have not been able to contain the fire yet. The Woolsey Fire was a smaller fire, but it had a lot more potential for destruction. 

Global warming is having a large impact on the amount of wildfires and their severity. As the average temperature goes up in California, water levels and humidity go down. This is causing mass amounts of plants to dry out or die, which makes even more fuel for these flames. On top of that, pollution and trash that get to these forests give the fires even more fuel, while still being horrible for the environment. Pollutants can also cause fires too. Things like smoldering cigarette butts or drain cleaner can easily catch on fire. Since California is such an urban state, it is easy for trash like this to end up in the forests or on the sides of roads. This not only disrupts local wildlife, but it can potentially hurt, or even kill many people.

 

 

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