Blaze of the Californian Fires

California, a state in the Pacific region of the USA is the third largest by area and the most populous. The state is known to majorly have a Mediterranean climate (dry summer climate) owing to its size and proximity to the ocean. In recent times, with response to climate change and global warming, the state of California got warmer and the “fire season” went on to become lethal. Wildfires are most common and expected in spring, from when the snow melts until foliage fully appears. That is roughly mid-March to mid-June. This year the pattern of wildfires has been largely unpredictable and some deadly fires have erupted in the month of November- when most of the State expects rain and sometimes even snow.

The 2018 wildfire season has been the most destructive wildfire season ever recorded. A series of wildfires ravaged the state, some of them were effectively contained and some of them are still at large incinerating everything in its path. One of the wildfires that started on November 8th, Camp Fire, in the Butte county, has been of California’s deadliest fires yet spanning over 153336 acres of land. Several fatalities were reported in the process of containing the fires. It included both civilian fatalities (85) and fire fighter injuries (3), 475 people were also reported missing. A lot of people lost their homes and witnessed the fire licking away at their property in front of their eyes. 13,954 single residences were destroyed along with many other multiple residences and commercial structures.

The numbers are utterly devastating. Some popular celebrities like the Kardashians, Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth have lost their homes to these fires. After almost two weeks of raging inferno, firefighters were finally able to contain most of the fires. 98% of Camp Fire is known to have been contained with the help of some rain and they are hoping to fully contain the fire by 30th November. The fire line that is left uncontained is rough terrain that is unsafe and difficult to access by the firefighters due to some heavy rains. Rescuers are discovering more bodies as the clean-up progresses after the rain. The death toll is set to rise further.

The scorched grounds were susceptible to mudslides and flowing debris causing more panic to residents. After days of rain and flood warnings, the county is finally reviving itself and awaits dry weather by next weekend. The rain has also made it easier for the search and rescue team to efficiently use dogs to find human remains. While camp fire targeted northern California, another deadly blaze hit southern California- Woolsey Fire. This fire hit the Los Angeles county and Ventura county scorching over 96,949 acres of land and destroyed 1500 structures besides partially damaging 341 buildings. It was finally contained by 22nd November. The Woolsey fire, apart from Camp, Nurse and Hill fire, all started on the same day. Only Woolsey and Hill fires have subsided. Despite not causing extensive damage like the other to fires, Hill fire is still yet to be completely contained.

As experts are constantly trying to track the blazes, the reasons for Camp and Woolsey fires are still unknown. Most of the time, the fire’s birth is destroyed by the fire itself. Cal-Fire determined that of the 21 major fires last fall, at least 17 were caused by power lines, poles and other equipment owned by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Most of the time, the origin of the fire is traced back to one man and his hammer. To an area that is largely susceptible to fires due to climatic conditions, these are normal occurrences. Once Cal-Fire can determine a cause, it can seek compensation for firefighting costs, which in the case of Camp Fire, will be an exorbitant bill.

A changing climate is the principal reason for deadly fires erupting unexpectedly. Some reports also show that another major contributor was an increase in dead tree fuel. By December 2017, Californian State was said to have had 129 million dead trees. This was a direct result of logging. When the fire got to the logged area, it spread so rapidly that many people did not have the time to evacuate. Many ecologists are starting to question land management policies and logging practices on public land. An entire state is distraught at the rising number of fatalities. It is high time that the country and its President take climate change very seriously. The state can expect more fires in the future before they can recuperate and they need political funding to find working resolutions to the fire problem.

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