Last month, two large fires broke out in Southern California. The death and destruction it caused is unlike any other fire in California’s recorded history.
The fire in Southern California was quite close to my family home and the days when it raged were filled with anxiety and fear by myself and my friends. It felt like every twenty minutes, I was checking the news for new information and checking the fire maps (many of which were created using ArcGIS) for the extent of the damage. When I returned home for the holidays, I witnessed, firsthand, the burnt landscapes and infrastructure from the Woolsey fire.
According to CBS News, 150,000 acres of land burned in the Northern Camp fire and 96,949 acres burned in the Southern Woolsey fire, (CBS News, 2018).
According to National Geographic, there are several factors which cause the fire to be extremely difficult to contain. These include “intense winds, drought, and difficult terrain.” With winds that ranged from 50 to 70 mph and a severe drought in 18% of the state, the hilly and mountainous fire zones posed an immense risk to infrastructure, ecosystems, and individuals, (Gibbens, 2018).
The fact that these fires have been so destructive directly displays the effects of climate change on natural disasters. This is something that was repeatedly undermined and ignored by President Trump throughout the chaos. In the midst of the fire, Trump tweeted, “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!” (Vera, 2018).
Apart from being misleading, this claim is extremely insensitive to those who lost their houses or family members in the fire. According to The New York Times, “of the state’s 33 million acres of forest, federal agencies, including the Forest Service and the Interior Department, own and manage 57 percent. Forty percent are owned by families, Native American tribes or companies, including industrial timber companies; just 3 percent are owned and managed by state and local agencies,” (Pierre-Louis, 2018). Additionally, by failing to mention climate change, the president has yet again, undermined human impact on the globe.
According to NPR, there are still “about 100 names on a list of missing persons” affected by the fire. Additionally, “The Camp Fire has killed at least 56 people and ravaged entire neighborhoods in Paradise and other Northern California towns,” (Gonzales, 2018).
Now contained, these fires were the most devastating of all in California’s history. However, with rising temperatures, it is possible that natural disasters such as these will only get increasingly more destructive.
Gibbens, Sarah. "Why California's Wildfires Are so Hard to Fight." National Geographic. November 13, 2018. Accessed December 10, 2018. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/11/why-woolsey-camp-california-wildfires-are-difficult-to-contain/.
Gonzales, Richard, and Bill Chappell. "More Deaths Are Reported In California Fires." NPR. November 14, 2018. Accessed December 10, 2018. https://www.npr.org/2018/11/14/667806451/firefighters-corral-big-california-fires-but-challenges-remain.
Pierre-louis, Kendra. "Trump's Misleading Claims About California's Fire 'Mismanagement'." The New York Times. November 12, 2018. Accessed December 10, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/12/us/politics/fact-check-trump-california-fire-tweet.html.
Vera, Amir. "Trump's Tweet on California Wildfires Angers Firefighters, Celebrities." CNN. November 12, 2018. Accessed December 10, 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/11/politics/california-wildfires-trump-tweets/index.html.