Wildfires Spread Across West Coast


Michael Held

Burning building at night time.

Morgan Severson

From Chico to Los Angeles, four wildfires ravaged through California. The fires started on November 8 and lasted over two weeks. They have killed hundreds of people, and thousands have gone missing trying to escape the fire. These November wildfires demolishing homes and businesses in California are said to be the deadliest wildfires the state has ever suffered. Thousands are being forced to evacuate and flee their homes, leaving their belonging behind to turn into ashes. Many citizens have gone homeless and are living in shelters, having to start their lives over again.

“The fast-moving wildfires in the state have destroyed thousands of structures and prompted thousands of residents to flee, sometimes through jam-packed flame-lined streets that forced evacuees to choose whether to try to drive to safety or to get out and run,” CNN said.

The North most wildfire, Camp Fire, is burning in California’s Butte County and has burned 153,336 acres. After a long battle with firefighters, it was contained on November 25. Camp Fire has destroyed over 13,000 homes, 528 businesses, killed 85 civilians injured five firefighters. According to the Today Show, over 560 Californians in the area have gone missing. After only three days, 90 percent of the town Paradise was destroyed by Camp Fire. According to Thom Porter, a California Fire chief, over 100 people could have been killed in Paradise and they are still searching for bodies. It was reported that many of the displaced families spent their Thanksgiving in emergency shelters eating with firefighters and first responders that bravely risk their lives to help the community.

The second wildfire, Hill Fire, has devastated Ventura County and has burned 4,531 acres of land` and was only 85 percent contained after five days. It was finally contained on November 15. Winds in the area are about 86 mph, which is causing power outages as well as forced shutdowns of power from electricity companies. Over 25,000 people in the area are left without power and four buildings have been destroyed. Another wildfire, Nurse Fire, burned through Solano County, and burned 1,500 acres of mostly vegetation, so far no buildings have been harmed. As of November 25, Nurse Fire is still active and only 90 percent contained.

Woolsey Fire, has been devastating Los Angeles County and Ventura County, burning over 96,000 acres. 1,500 buildings have been destroyed and two civilians have been killed. After five days, only 40 percent of the fire was contained. Woolsey was completely contained on November 22.

“Hundreds of Malibu, Agoura Hills and Thousand Oaks area evacuees spent the holiday weekend returning to their burned-out neighborhoods to survey their damaged or destroyed homes and to begin rebuilding their lives. Some were still debating whether to stay or leave,” The Los Angeles Timessaid.

Many celebrities in the Los Angeles area lost their homes as well, including Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth, Robin Thicke, Camille Grammer, Neil Young and Gerard Butler. Cyrus and Hemsworth are donating 500,000 dollars to The Malibu Foundation to help Californians rebuild after the tragedy.

President Trump tweeted about the fires on November 10 and blamed the fires on poor forest management. He then threatened to stop Federal funding to help California with wildfires if the state does not manage the forests better.

“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forest. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!” Trump, in his tweet about the fires, said.

The California Professional Firefighter President, Brian Rice, released a statement to refute the president’s three a.m. tweet.

“Natural disasters are not ‘red’ or ‘blue’ they destroy regardless of party. Right now, families are in mourning, thousands have lost homes, and a quarter-million Americans have been forced to flee. At this desperate time, we would encourage the president to offer support in word and deed, instead of recrimination and blame,” Rice said.

On November 13, the President visited the parts of California that had been devastated by the fires. According to NBC, Trump “pledged” to give the state federal funds and help aid the Californians that lost everything in the fire.

“This is very sad to see. As far as the lives are concerned, nobody knows quite yet, right now we want to take care of the people that are so badly hurt, the families where they’ve lost — a lot of people have been lost,” Trump, after seeing the ashes left of burned down homes, said.

Many people have considered that global warming could have contributed to the severity of the wildfires. California has never seen wildfires this extreme and studies has shown that global warming is a major factor contributing to the intensity of natural disasters in the last few years according to NBC’s Stay Tuned. For example, the slew of hurricanes that hit the United States, like Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey, as well as massive winter snow storms in the North East and wildfires in the Western United States have all been so severe due to climate change, studies show.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, if global warming emissions do not substantially decrease, wildfires in California will over double by 55 percent.

“For example, a hotter, drier climate could increase the flammability of vegetation in northern California and promote up to a 90 percent increase in large wildfires by the end of the century. A hotter, wetter climate would also lead to an increase in wildfires in northern California, but to a lesser extent—about a 40 percent increase by century’s end,” The Union of Concerned Scientists, in a statement, said.

It seems as though if the world fails to reduce and reverse the effects of climate change, the world is going to continue facing horrific natural disasters. As the fires are finally contained, families, first responders, and search crews rummage through the ashes of their homes looking for bodies and belongings. The world is watching and supporting California as they begin to recover from the irreversible damage of the fires.