California Wildfires

By Ian Teñido

TOPSHOT-US-FIRE-WEATHER
TOPSHOT – Vehicles and homes burn as the Camp fire tears through Paradise, California on November 8, 2018. – More than 18,000 acres have been scorched in a matter of hours burning with it a hospital, a gas station and dozens of homes. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Wildfires are a common phenomenon and science considers it natural. Natural in the sense that, it provides the wild an opportunity to renew and rejuvenate itself by burning the old and growing the new. Wildfires date back to as far as we can remember. For people of California and southern areas, this is a problem they know very well. Since 1908, policies have been put in place starting with the Forest Fire Emergency Fund Act. As I write today, there have been numerous policies to this effect including the 10 AM policy, FEMA and the NFPA policies. The recent fires dubbed as Campfire and Woosley fire are, so far, the most devastating in the history of California. The town of Paradise has completely been brought down into ashes and nothing of life remains to tell a story there; apart from those who escaped the fire in search of safety.

By Sunday the 18th of November, 10 days after these fires erupted, there are massive losses and destruction of property that the Butte County estimates to be in billions. Campfire in Butte County has had 150 acres of burned land. By Sunday, 65% of the fires had been contained and 77 fatalities were reported. Nearly 950 people were unaccounted for and a total of 12,794 structures were destroyed. The full containment of this fire is expected by Nov. 30. On the other hand, the Woolsey fire in Los Bagels County had 96,949 acres burned but was contained 91% and only 3 fatalities were reported. In addition, 1,452 structures were destroyed and full containment is expected by Nov. 22nd.

In 2016, California saw yet its deadliest fires but this one in 2018 proves to bear even more brunt to the residents. This problem seems to be persistent and is not about to go away any sooner. This assumption is premised on the realities of nature; climatic changes and increased environmental deterioration are a twin primary trigger of fires anywhere in the world. Although recent studies indicate that most fires start in an accidental manner, the states can be proactive by being serendipitous on how the fires are handled.

fire-tracker-social
https://projects.sfchronicle.com/2018/fire-tracker/

Beginning in the 70s, the wildland fire management practices began to take a new shape after a realization that poor management of wildland and the eventual fires are catastrophic in nature. Surprisingly, even after a concerted effort by the federal government to fund firefighting in wildland, these fires have not been suppressed and they continue to terrorize those who live in these environments.

Ecologists, on the other hand, recognize the importance of wildfires especially their role in renewing the old vegetation and restoring the serenity of the habitats. They argue that; lightning-triggered forest fires are natural and thus, humans should align their activities and lives with nature or suffer the striking of Mother Nature (South, 2017). This argument cannot be further from the truth. This is because fires have increased their severity across the landscape of North America and the present California fire is one of them. Could there be something that is being done to nature which is responsible for the frequent fires? This aside, are critical questions being asked to ensure that fatalities are reduced in these fires? Questions such as the following can possibly take this discussion in the right direction.


References

CBS News (2018). California wildfires: Nearly 1,000 unaccounted for in Camp Fire — live updates. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/live-news/fires-in-california-camp-woolsey-paradise-wildfire-evacuations-death-toll-map-2018-11-18-latest/

South, D. (2017). Facts About Wildfires. Journal Of Forestry. doi: 10.5849/jof-2017-054.

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