California Wildfires


Jacob Eliopoulos, Journalist

Over the past two years alone, there have been over 100,000 wildfires and more than 17 million acres of land that has been burned. Although these numbers are for the entire United States, they are still staggering statistics. Many believe that climate change is playing a major role in spreading these wildfires. This would make a lot of sense. In California over the past century, the temperature in the air has increased by 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Although this number may not seem drastic, it is still rising and there is no sign of it slowing down. There is more evidence to help support the claim that climate change is real, and that it is playing a huge role in the recent wildfires. Not only are the wildfires causing many people in Northern California to evacuate their homes and towns, they are causing so much damage and even more air pollution.

The most immediate problem that a wildfire causes is the need for people to evacuate the area so they are safe. This is such a hard thing to ask people to do because they are leaving everything behind: their home, many valued possessions, and so many memories-all without the assurance that they will see them again. One of our own fellow journalists, Lauren Kennedy, visited California over the summer and explained to me that she “saw people set up outside, because they don’t have homes.” She also told me “My cousins in Camarillo had to evacuate their house.” The deadliest and most destructive California wildfire to date occurred on November 8th in Butte County. At least 88 people perished, about 153,000 acres were burned and 18,800 structures have been destroyed. The fire burned almost 14,000 residences and about 530 commercial structures. The other structures were minor. Just this one wildfire alone caused 14,000 families to leave their homes. Some of which are now living on the side of the road because they have no other place to go.

Another major problem that comes with these fires is the tangible damage that they do. Over 17 million acres have been burned, including wildlife, residences, and other structures. The Mendocino Complex Fire broke out on July 27th in Northern California and grew to be the largest fire in state history with 459,123 acres burned. This fire, as well as The Carr fire, destroyed at least 10,000 homes, businesses, private automobiles, commercial vehicles, and other types of property, totaling in about $845 million worth of damage. Again, this is only two out of almost 100,000 wildfires. These fires are also causing so much damage to the wildlife.

Finally, one of the last major problems the fires create is the worsening air pollution. Mrs. Lafrance, an environmental science teacher at IHS, offered her knowledge about how climate change is helping these fires to spread. She told me that, “In California, the temperatures are really high, and there had been a lack of rainfall for quite awhile, making it very easy for wildfires to spread.” One reason for the rising temperatures is the greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere. Because of these gasses, the temperature rises and makes the air, soil, and vegetation very dry. When wildfires do occur, more pollution gets added to the air. My cousin, who lives in the San Francisco area, had to wear a mask outside for a three week period in November when there were multiple wildfires.

These are two major problems that are happening in the world right now and more needs to be done to prevent them from continuing. If we address and create a plan to cut down on fossil fuels and recycle/compost more, then the temperature in the air will stop increasing and it will be harder for wildfires to start and spread so easily.