California Faces Second Year of Destructive Wildfires

Kerry Matthews, Staff-writer

On Wednesday, a wildfire began in California. There are at least 10 active fires across California, including the Kincade Fire, Saddle Ridge Fire, Easy Fire and more. The Kincade Fire has spread the farthest at up to 76,825 acres. 

In total, 162,693 acres have burnt. While there have been only three casualties, 607 homes and buildings were lost to the fires so far. Major areas hit include San Bernardino, Simi Valley, LA, Sonoma and more. 

In a controversial decision, a Californian electric company called Pacific Gas & Electric shut off power to millions of residents. The company claimed equipment on a transmissions tower broke near where the Kincade Fire began. However, the company’s current struggles with bankruptcy and damages for past victims suggests their motive in cutting the power is not to help residents but to help themselves by not garnering any more liability payments. 

With the fires still raging, no serious inquiry has been conducted into Pacific Gas & Electric’s decision. Frustrated residents and suspicion that the company’s decision did the exact opposite of its intention have only resulted in further turmoil for the company. 

This series of wildfires comes only a year after the extremely destructive 2018 fires. They burnt over a million acres, destroyed over 18,000 buildings and homes, and resulted in 85 deaths. 

California has now seen two consecutive years of more dangerous wildfires than typical. The reason lies in the overall pattern of climate change and its specific effects on the already dry climate of California. The prolonged drought in the state dried up plants, and this, paired with strong winds, allowed the fires to become uncontrollable in their intensity and spread. With higher temperatures and less rain, fires now have more fuel than ever before. 

The Santa Ana winds, deemed the Devil Winds, are the primary force in the fires’ spread across Southern California. These downward sloping winds are strong and dry, creating a perfect climate for wildfires. 

With winds at 60 to 70 miles per hour, they facilitate the movement of embers across California. This makes possible the multitude of fires breaking out simultaneously as well as the size and destructiveness of these fires. 

As conditions worsen, California’s fire season becomes longer and more dangerous. The duration of the fire season has increased by 75 days in some parts of the state.

At this point in efforts to control the fires, firefighters have made significant progress. The fire afflicting Sonoma County has lessened, and some residents have been able to return home. However, San Bernardino residents have been ordered to evacuate, and the fire in Jurupa Valley is growing and endangering first responders due to the high winds. 

As of November 7th, the Kincade Fire has been fully contained. However, a new fire, called the Eagle Fire, around Lake County, and other fires, like the Ranch Fire, continue to grow. 

Residents in high-risk areas have been evacuated. Firefighters are putting their own lives at risk to quell the wildfires. The Californian government and certain companies will have to pay for rebuilding and liabilities in the months to come. But if efforts are not made to reverse or at least stop climate change, there is no telling how much more destructive California’s climate and fire season could become.