California’s recurring wildfire problem, explained

I was born in Southern California and lived there all my life until 3 years ago. Having experienced these fires I can tell you they are scary as hell. I imagine that many people watching these fires on TV news are wondering how this keep happening in California year after year. If you’re one of those people, the below article does an excellent job of explaining it. As you might guess climate change is a big part of it. Oh yeah I forgot, according to Donald Trump climate change is a Chinese Hoax.

Eliza Barclay, David Roberts, and Umair Irfan, writing for Vox

The images and reports out of California this week are overwhelming: concurrent colossal wildfires laying waste to property and landscapes, freaky orange skies, massive smoke clouds, worsening air quality, more than 64,000 people forced to evacuate, and all of it compounding the risks of Covid-19.

The 2020 fire season has been record-breaking, in not only the total amount of acres burned at just over 3 million, but also 6 of the top 20 largest wildfires in California history have occurred this year.

— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) September 10, 2020

If this feels like déjà vu, here’s why: Wildfires are growing more common and more severe in California. The most recent season of horror was 2018, which had 10 large fires that each burned more than 500 acres. Most infamous was the Camp Fire, which left 86 people dead in Paradise and caused more than $16.5 billion in losses, according to the German insurance company Munich RE.

This August was California’s warmest on record (as it was for five other states as well), setting the stage for the extraordinary streak of extra-large fires burning now. Five of the current fires are in the 20 largest wildfires in the state’s history: the August Complex (the largest blaze in state history as of Thursday), the SCU Lightning Complex, the LNU Lightning Complex, the North Complex, and the Bear Complex. As their names hint, these are megafires that gained size and strength when smaller fires combined into unified blazes.

The heat wave that preceded this terrifying swarm was not a blip. The weeks of arid, hot air that crisped out the forests and shrubs now aflame are part of a familiar pattern of extreme weather events: the climate crisis accelerating right in our faces.

As the climate heats up, many other states in the West, including Oregon and Colorado, are seeing larger, more devastating fires and more dangerous air quality from wildfire smoke. But California is at particular risk, both because its increasingly volatile weather may bring more droughts than other states and because it has more people and more buildings. Let’s walk through the details of how we got here.

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