California is on fire right now. More than two dozen large wildfires raging across the state, caused by an extreme heatwave, have burned 2.5 million acres of land, destroyed 3,000 homes, and killed 10 people.
The situation is extremely dire and is the worst in recorded Californian history. Unfortunately, many of the fires are expected to continue to spread.
The raging flames are a glaring reminder of the catastrophic magnitude of the climate crisis. And it’s not just in California. Devastating wildfires are also happening in Oregon and Washington State, where entire communities have been destroyed. Here’s everything you need to know about the crisis, and how you can help those who are currently being affected.
There are 28 major wildfires in the state of California, and it’s spreading to Washington and Oregon.
In California, the fires are spread over approximately 800 miles, from the north of the state to the Mexican border. More than 2.5 million acres have been scorched. The biggest blazes include the August Complex Fire, north of Sacramento, stretching more than 400,000 acres, and Creek fire in central California, which totals 160,000 acres. Meanwhile, the Bobcat Fire, less than 25 miles from Los Angeles, has spread across nearly 20,000 acres.
Furthermore, weather conditions mean high fire risks in other states from Washington to Arizona. As of Tuesday evening, areas inhabited by almost 39 million people in six Western states were under red flag warnings, which caution that wildfires were either likely to happen or imminent.
Currently, there are at least 87 large wildfires burning across the United States, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. California has been the hardest-hit.
High temperatures, dry conditions, lightning, paired with strong winds that fuel the flames means that California is particularly susceptible to wildfires. But often, the blame lies with us. In general, 95% of fires in the state are caused by human activity: The El Dorado Fire in Southern California’s San Bernardino County, which has scorched 10,574 acres, was sparked Saturday morning by a pyrotechnic device used during a gender reveal party.
Indeed, climate change and global warming are at the root of the problem. Rising temperatures are causing fires to become more common and severe. The area affected by wildfires in California has increased by 500 percent since the ’70s, and it’s only getting worse.
According to UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain, due to human-caused climate change, temperature extremes are climbing higher, meaning the vegetation is drier, which affects fire behavior. Despite the shocking impact of the wildfires, Swain doesn’t expect conditions to improve soon for California and other Western states. “Climate change has not just made the extreme heat waves that coincided with the fires worse. The bigger effect is the more subtle, long-term warming,” he said.
California Governor Gavin Newsom echoed this concern. “CA has invested more in wildfire prevention than any time in our history. But it’s not enough. We need action at EVERY level. CA cannot do this alone,” he wrote on Twitter.
These pictures cry out for change. CA has invested more in wildfire prevention than any time in our history. Enacted bold climate policies. But it’s not enough.
We must do more. We need action at EVERY level. CA cannot do this alone.
Climate change is REAL.
So please — VOTE. pic.twitter.com/ev6jd0Adky
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) September 10, 2020
There are several funds where you can donate to help victims of the wildfires and help support the thousands of firefighters putting their lives on the line.
The United Way of Northern California offers emergency grants to those who have lost their homes as a result of the fires.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department is also accepting donations to support firefighters and paramedics who are on the frontline.
Former President Barack Obama has also issued an important reminder that the best way to enact real change in the fight against climate change is to make your voice count in the coming elections. Taking to Instagram he wrote, “the fires across the west coast are just the latest examples of the very real ways our changing climate is changing our communities. Protecting our planet is on the ballot. Vote like your life depends on it — because it does.”
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The fires across the West Coast are just the latest examples of the very real ways our changing climate is changing our communities. Protecting our planet is on the ballot. Vote like your life depends on it—because it does.
A post shared by Barack Obama (@barackobama) on