Lessons From the California Wildfires

Photo Source U.S. Department of Agriculture | CC BY 2.0

The recent wildfires in California make me feel even more worried about the fate of anyone whose homes are built in the woods.  California has experienced the 9 of the largest fires in its history in the past two decades, but large fires have occurred in many other western states during the same period.

What is going on? Are there too many dense forests due to fire “suppression” as some like President Trump suggest or is something else going on? Keep in mind more than half of all the acreage burned in the West has occurred in non-forest vegetation like chaparral, sagebrush, and grasslands.

Therefore, it’s questionable to suggest if we only thinned the forest we would see fewer large fires.

Furthermore, under extreme fire in weather, you cannot stop a wildfire. There is much anecdotal and scientific evidence for this.  The most severe fires occur in previously logged forests.

For instance, the Camp Fire which destroyed the town of Paradise began in an area which had burned a mere ten years before, and was salvage logged.

What drives massive wildfire is drought (California is in the midst of a thousand-year drought), high temperatures (CA had the warmest summer in 127 years which of course dries out all vegetation), low humidity (at the time of ignition there was extremely low humidity of less than 5 percent), and finally the most significant factor in all large fires is wind.

The wind was pushing the wildfire…

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