Quick Analysis: California Wildfires

By Ian Teñido

la-me-ln-california-fires-billion-dollars-losses-20160125
LA Times

Wildfires have existed in history for as long as man can remember. I would precisely approximate this time to when man first discovered fire; one match stick can destroy an entire forest with more than a million trees and properties worth in billions. Conservationists, however, consider wildfires as part and parcel of natural process which renew forests. As both beneficial and destructive process, wildfires are feared by all because of the devastating effects it leaves behind. The October wildfires in Northern California savaged huge tracts of forest lands and death tolls at more than 40 and continues to rise with the most recent Southern California wildfire this month. The big question engulfing wildfire situations is to determine how and where the fire started.

Since October 8 of this year, California was engulfed by fire where thousands were forced to evacuate; especially from the state’s famous wine country located up in Northern California. More than 20,000 people had to abandon their homes and would later witness them get reduced to ashes. More than 400 people were reported missing during the incident in Sonoma County. Some of the victims in this fire include those who refused to leave their property behind and chose to face the fires with the hope that they could secure their property by extinguishing it. It is even sadder to realize that some firefighters died in line of duty. The winds travelling at a speed of more than 100 kph continued to make the work of firefighters harder by enabling the fire to spread faster.

A spokesperson for the Pacific Gas and Electric came out earlier to state that the cause of the fire was not precise. However, he attributed several of the fires are due to several instances which include:

  • Campfires
  • Faulty machinery
  • Electricity power lines
  • Cigarette
  • Deliberate fires by ill-intentioned individuals
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ABC News

Although the cause of the fire is almost certainly attributed to the human activities, the fire in California seems to have a certainty of happening. Every October, fire season in California peaks and it is always a matter of how fast it can be contained. As an environmentalist, albeit, there is more in these fires than a mere anticipation. With the increasing effects of climate change, the climate is set to change where we shall experience warmer and longer summers and this will cause the fires to appear more frequently. Mayor Eric Garcetti noted that “These are days that break your heart…these are also days that show resilience of our city.” Could we say that the city is resilient or simply caught up at the locus of climate change action? I believe that wildfires can be controlled if not stopped; this is in fact achievable if we start by addressing and anchoring our lives on the principles of sustainable development.

The smoke from the wildfires could be spotted from as far as Santa Monica Pier; the city residents stayed indoors to avoid the foul air. This seems to be the trend of wildfires whenever or wherever they happen; they simply rob us the freedom to do anything for several days let alone the devastating environment they leave behind and the economic suppression they impose on numerous families. The critical question that should be asked is whether we should keep allocating more money to firefighting or to mitigating climate change. Equally, should we invest in firefighters alone or should we invest, proactively, in people so that they are able to contain fires immediately when they start? Lastly, should we continue treating evacuations and saving of lives as resilience or should we proactively work with communities to stop wildfires? Answering these questions is fundamental as we ponder on how to curb this catastrophe, and seemingly running away, environmental challenges.

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