Wildfires are not new in the state of California, USA. Every year, they expect wildfires to occur from August through November because of the frequent hot, dry winds that are prevalent during this period. The wildfire season finishes when the first significant rainstorm of winter hits, around October in Northern California, and approximately in Southern California, between the end of October to December. The earliest wildfires ever recorded by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) was as early as 1878.
California’s Most Destructive Wildfires
As of the writing, the “Camp Fire” of Butte County in November 2018 holds the record of the most destructive and deadliest wildfires in the history of California. It left an official death toll of 86, destroyed almost 19,000 structures, annihilated 90 percent of the town of Paradise, and made at least 10 thousand people displaced and homeless.
On September 20, 2018, the largest wildfire in the state’s history, the “Mendocino Fire,” came to an end, which wiped out nearly 459,000 acres and caused the death of one firefighter. The Mendocino fire comprised a couple of flames, the “River Fire” and the “Ranch Fire.” The blazes seized over 280 buildings, wherein 157 were houses, and burned a region larger than Los Angeles.
California Wildfires 2020, a Catastrophe amidst Pandemic
Each year, wildfires are becoming more and more severely destructive, which causes billions of dollars of damage and loss to properties and even fatalities to humans and animals. This year’s wildfires are getting worse each day, creating so much concern, not only within the people of California but countries around the globe as we face the Covid-19 pandemic at the same time.
As early as January this year, the Cal Fire has recorded some fires that occurred within the state. On March 22, a state emergency was announced by California Governor Gavin Newsome because of a mass die-off of trees across California that heightened the risk of wildfires. The executive order authorized the state to suspend environmental inspection on some fuel-reduction schemes, which included tree thinning in forests and other most-at-risk places.
On August 18, Gov. Newsome declared a statewide emergency due to massive fires and extreme weather conditions. The declaration allowed them to deploy every means available to keep communities safe and secure as California grapples blazes across the state.
The ongoing wildfires, as of August 24, has the following significant statistics:
- Over 14,000 firefighters are helping to put out the fires
- Recorded more than 650 new wildfires
- Flames burned over 1.25 million acres
- Seven reported fatalities and;
- More than 1,400 damage to structures
What Causes Wildfires in California
There are many reasons why wildfires happen. Some wildfires occur due to nature’s way. For instance, lightning, winds, and change in the climate. However, about 95 percent are caused by humans, according to Cal Fire. An article published by the Los Angeles Times enumerated some of the following human-induced causes of fire in California:
- Electrical lines and equipment
- Sparks from vehicles or other equipment
- Faulty wiring
- Failure to extinguish a previous fire
What to Do When There are Wildfires
Wildfires are considered natural catastrophes. However, most wildfires happen because of human error. So if you are living in a wildfire-prone area, you should have a game plan as it can strike anytime.
- Always listen to emergency officials, if they announce an evacuation, you have to follow it immediately without any question.
- Immediately report to authorities when you see the fire spreading. Call 911 or your local fire department. Extinguish the fire as necessary.
- Take extra precautions when using flammable materials or devices, such as lanterns, heaters, and stoves.
- Discard matches, cigarettes, and other smoking materials properly. Make sure fire is completely gone.
- Make your home less susceptible to fire. Always obey local ordinances, like when burning yard waste.
To get the latest updates on the California Wildfires, you can visit Cal Fire’s official website https://www.fire.ca.gov/.
Check the California Wildfire Map here: https://www.latimes.com/wildfires-map/