Destructive wildfires erupt across California

AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Mel Melcon

Tyler Chalfant | October 29th, 2019

Multiple massive wildfires have raged across California this week, stretching the state’s firefighting resources. Dangerous and destructive fires are becoming increasingly common in the state. 2018 was the worst year for fires on record, and a state-commissioned report found that, under current emission trends, the average burn area will increase by 77% by the end of the century.

Low humidity and heavy winds have created ideal conditions for wildfires to spread. A wildfire twice the size of San Francisco has already destroyed at least 60 homes. Fires in Northern California also caused a blackout on Sunday, cutting off electricity to more than 2.5 million people. On Monday morning, fires broke out near Los Angeles as well. These emergency conditions have exhausted much of the state’s firefighting budget, leaving fewer funds available for preventive measures, such as thinning forests and protecting infrastructure and water supplies.
Wildfires have combined with drought and insect infestations to kill millions of California trees in recent years. These fires also contribute to climate change, as a single fire can release as much carbon as 2.5 million cars would emit in a year. The human toll is growing as well. 93 lives were lost due to California wildfires last year alone. Even after fires are extinguished, it can take communities months or years to recover. The length of “wildfire season” grows longer as well. Today, there are 78 more “fire days” than there were 50 years ago.

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