The War on Wildfires

On September 8th, a pregnant couple hosted a gender reveal party in El Dorado, California, but the surprise was a bit larger than they expected it to be. The burst of blue quickly turned into a gigantic orange blaze that would engulf California in historic fires. The El Dorado Fire is one of eighty-five current wildfires raging since August across the West Coast. The largest wildfire, the Creek Fire, has recently made history as the single biggest blaze in California’s history. In total, the fires have taken thirty-five lives and forced hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate their homes. 

According to the Washington Post, the California Creek Fire created two rare phenomena known as fire tornados. The largest one created winds up to one hundred twenty-five miles per hour, and the other was rated at one hundred and seven miles per hour. Thankfully, they have since died, but the fires could produce stronger tornadoes in the future if they are not extinguished. 

Although some fires are started by failed pyrotechnics, the majority begin and maintain their course because of climate change. It has been proven that rising temperatures, low humidity, and small amounts of rainfall, all products of global warming, have made the fires unnecessarily disastrous. 

Climate change is caused by an increase in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, getting trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere, and creating a gigantic heating pad for the planet. This is good at normal levels because it keeps the Earth warm, but with excess amounts from cars or power plants, the carbon dioxide overheats the Earth. The organisms that depend on greenhouse gases can not take the gases in faster than they are produced, which leads to an excess amount of gas stuck in the atmosphere. Therefore, the fires on the west coast are fueled by the air and high temperatures caused by climate change. 

Mrs. Schimmel, a GN Chemistry teacher, agrees “with the climate science that suggests changes in climate that create drier conditions will increase drought that makes the fire season longer.” 

Dr. Matthew Jones from the University of East Anglia has stated that over the past four decades, the size of wildfires has increased tenfold and shows no signs of stopping. He warns that Californians should be prepared for the fires to become more dramatic and dangerous in the future. 

Currently, it is difficult to imagine the fires getting worse. The entirety of the West Coast is covered in an apocalyptic plume of orange smoke. Not only is this horrifying, but it also destroys the air quality and threatens the health of the people who breathe it in. According to the Chicago Tribune, the smoke reached Chicago on September 14, but thankfully it did not affect the city’s air quality. Shockingly, wildfires do affect Southern Illinois, but not at the same rate as the West Coast. Americans have to do their part to stay informed, donate, and find other ways to help to stop the world from burning. Vidhi Mehta, ’21, wonders, “why there aren’t steps being taken by the federal government to provide aid and, more importantly, reduce the frequency of these fires.” 

There is no telling when these fires will end or how much of the West Coast they will take, so every individual must contribute in helping the people in distress during these times. According to the New York Times, donating to places like the American Red Cross or the California Fire Foundation will help the disaster victims. Pressuring Congressmen in assisting the wildfire victims can cause a significant amount of impact. However, to create long-term reform against wildfires, society must unite to combat climate change. Switching to LED light bulbs, reducing food and water waste, and composting are all simple things that can be done at home. As a country, investing in renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and water power would reduce the carbon footprint and, as a result, prevent further global warming.