An ominous orange glow looms in the distance as a forest fire slowly encroaches on an endangered city. The survivors look onward in horror as they rush to save whatever they can. This is the plight that many Californians face as wildfires continue to ravage millions of acres of land. These recent fires, which began during early fall, originated from a combination of careless human behavior and natural causes. Some of the major fires include the LNU fire, the SCU fire, the CZU fire, and the more recent Glass fire. These current fires, which were intensified by global warming, will in turn have severe repercussions for our planet.
While fires are burning throughout other parts of the West Coast, California is where the most damage has occurred. As of October 8th, nearly 15,000 firefighters are working across the state to contain the ongoing 22 major fires. In total, these fires have burned four million acres, destroyed 9,200 buildings, and killed 31 people since the beginning of the year. Many counties are having periodic blackouts to ensure the safety of residents along with attempting to fix any sustained damage. Diablo Winds, dangerous and powerful wind currents which can damage structures and cause fires, have sent red alerts throughout the entire state.
California’s yearly wildfires have caused not only monetary damages, but also environmental problems. The sky’s recent discoloration due to the pollution caused by the fires is one of the effects many are aware of. The fires pose a severe health risk due to harmful gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide, but the more grave danger is the fine particles that are released. These pollutant particles are a mix of small liquid and water particles that are one-tenth the diameter of a hair and can lodge deep in the lungs, causing health problems. The many burning trees have also raised a red flag for the forests within California. Biologists have raised concern over the overwhelming number of animals having their habitats destroyed by the fires, such as the thousands of birds which have been found dead on the burned forest floor. “Everything in nature comes from photosynthesis,” says Mr. Michael Bortz, the AP Environmental Science teacher of WHS, “so when you are destroying the major organisms which perform photosynthesis, all the other organisms are unable to use them for food or shelter.” This is one concern many environmentalists have about the wildfires. Regulated wildfires are good for the environment, as they burn dead biomass and old trees, giving way to new seedlings. However, wildfires to the extent we are seeing today are posing a massive threat to the biodiversity of the ecosystems which are destroyed. Once one ecosystem is destroyed, humans are unable to use its resources and it is gone for good.
These wildfires have been so enormous, that they have affected people who were not in the vicinity of the fires. Many people still have to work outdoors despite the ongoing pandemic, and as a result of the fires they are risking inhaling dangerous particles. When asked about how the current fires have affected his life, junior Wilhelm Scoltz had this to say: “I was going to go kayaking in Monterey for my birthday, the one thing that’s still open during this pandemic, when half way there we get a call saying that kayaking is cancelled because of the smoke.” While not everyone is having their birthday ruined by the fires, many have been emotionally affected by the devastation.
Wildfires have been a recurring theme in California, and they appear to be increasingly worse each year. As a result, many people have been vocal about these fires and have demanded change. “I would like to have PG&E bury their power lines,” said Mrs. Yvonne Reynolds, a 9th grade English teacher and former firefighter, when asked about what reforms she would like to see. Many others on social media have raised their concerns for the environment, using the fires as evidence of global warming and a need for change in government policies and company actions.
In summary, Californian fires have become an yearly catastrophe, causing wreckage through the state on an unprecedented scale. If action is not taken to protect ecosystems and stop climate change, next year’s fires may be even worse.