California Wild Fires


Governor Newsom of California declared a state of emergency on October 25th for the fires raging through Sonoma and LA counties. Fire season is estimated to increase by 75 days in the Sierras. The largest wildfire of the season thus far is the Kincade fire. It started on October 24th and burned for 18 days before being contained. 77,758 acres were burned in total. The past and current fires can be tracked here

There have been at least 6,190 fire incidents in California as of November 15th. 3 people have died and 198,392 acres have been burned. 

There are many different possible answers as to what has caused the increase in these fires. Climate change? Lack of solid forest services? Increase in population? 

Trump attributes the California fires to poor forest management, but most of the fires don’t occur in the forests of California and therefore would not benefit from improved forest management. 19 out of the 20 deadliest California fires are actually wind-driven fires on coastal shrubland. In 2019 alone, Alaska has endured wildfires that burned ten times as much land as the California fires. Of the 198 largest wildfires that have happened between 1997-2018- 49 happened in Alaska, 26 in Idaho, and 23 were in California. Despite these facts, Trump has pinned the blame on California governor Gavin Newsom in a tweet from November 3rd saying “Get your act together governor. You don’t see close to the level of burn in other states.” Trump has threatened to cut off federal funds that would go towards attempts to halt the wildfires and aiding in the aftermath. 

Regardless of the debate over what is causing the fires, California is geologically positioned for higher fire risks because of its natural climate features. These climate features include long periods without rain, high summer temperatures, and seasonal fall winds when the vegetation is still dry ultimately sparking these wildfires. The population in California has grown by 6 million since 2000. When considering that most shrubland fires are sparked by humans, and 19/20 of all Californian fires are Shrubland fires, the population size becomes a reasonable cause. The National InterAgency Fire Center reports that on average, 61,375 human-related wildfires occur across the US per year.  The most viable answer to how these fires start and spread so vastly is a combination of the growth in the Californian population and Californias natural climatic features.

The debate behind the cause(s) of the fires is nothing in comparison to the damage they cause. If you are interested in helping, visit The California Disaster Fund.