What’s Fueling the Flames in the Golden State?

As California fires rage and ravage, iUP students living in the area or with family there worry for their safety. Thankfully these fires have not impacted our learning ability here in Texas since the school is online however, stress is at an all-time high. California has had many issues with fires in the past, but this year the amount of fires popping up is skyrocketing. As of September 6th, California passed the record for the worst year in history regarding wildfires and 2020 has broken the record with 3.2 million acres burned so far. However, California isn’t the only state dealing with fires, so there may be more at play than just the dry climate. Wildfires are often ignited by natural causes such as lightning, but the majority are caused by humans. Most fires are started unintentionally but continue to spread because of California’s dry hot summers.

Take, for example, one of the many fires burning in California right now; it started during a gender reveal party. The fire took place Saturday at the El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa and continued to spread North. The park is a popular destination for photos, but as the brush dries out, it also makes it a hot-spot for fires. During the party, a smoke generating pyrotechnic device was set off, sparking the fire and causing multiple communities to have to evacuate. Due to the dry and hot weather, the fire destroyed 7,000 acres, still raging today, and ultimately the national forest had to close. 

These California fires have impacted the human environment by quickly burning homes, businesses, and other buildings. Not only that, but they have released toxic smoke in the air that pollutes wildlife and the environment. Some of the health impacts include death, lifelong conditions, and severe injuries from inhaling this smoke. Even though all of these impacts are known, California homes are still continually being built near forests that are prone to wildfires. These areas are called urban-wildland interfaces and experience fires as a natural part of the environment. When homes are built, humans take action to suppress these fires which causes dry matter to build up. This creates the perfect conditions for intense wildfires to start. When a fire does break out in these areas it destroys all the homes in its path leading to large-scale economic losses. California has designated 1,300 communities as such and by building more we are continuing to get closer to wildfires.

In summary, a combination of natural causes, a warmer climate, and questionable land management are all contributing to California’s record-setting wildfires. Scientists have long suggested spending more money on fire prevention including vegetation clearing however, the change takes time and a lot of effort. Without greater investment in these fires, experts say California has many more record-setting fire seasons to come.