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Ferocious Forest Fires

Posted 10/18/2021 by Stephen LoJacono

Hundreds of trees are in flames near homes by Lake Pillsbury in the Mendocino National Forest. photo by Noah Berger

These California Fires are more important than imagined.

Over the past 100 years, global warming has become a massive issue. In California, there have been many droughts and wildfires throughout the past 20 years, but for the past few years, fires have been more prevalent than ever. Almost all of these fires have affected the midwest with an increase in temperature and an unhealthy change in air quality.

This past summer in Denver was the third hottest summer ever recorded, and these fires played a large part in it. In California, an average of four percent of land has burned each decade since 1984. This has been a problem for nearly 40 years in California. The Caldor Peak and River fires have in total taken nearly 15,000 acres, which is roughly 23 square miles, almost the size of Boulder. These fires are only getting worse. According to Verisk’s 2019 Wildfire Risk Analysis, 4.5 million U.S. homes were identified at high or extreme risk of wildfire, with more than two million of those homes in California alone. Many of these fires are caused by the droughts and the Colorado River drying. This can be attributed to 2020 and 2021 being in the top ten driest years in the precipitation record. 

Over thousands of homes have burned down because of these wildfires. Even in Sequoia National Park, the home to one of the tallest trees in the world, trees are dying and burning from these fires. Most of these trees are taller than 250 feet. In fact, many of these sequoia trees are close to 2,000 years old and all of this can go away if something does not change. The fires are not the only contributor to the decrease in trees; the air quality throughout the coast is just as harmful. The effects of smoke from wildfires can range from eye and respiratory tract irritation to more serious disorders, including reduced lung function, bronchitis, exacerbation of asthma and heart failure, and premature death. Children, pregnant women, and the elderly are especially vulnerable to smoke exposure. 

According to National Geographic, Captain Albert Hernandez has been a firefighter in California for 17 years and remarked, “Just since I joined in 2006, my fire season has extended to year-long,” Hernandez says. “It used to be May till December, where you’d start with fires up here and then later with the Santa Ana winds they’d move to southern California. Now it’s everywhere all the time.” Hernandez has been a firefighter for more than 20 years and he goes on to talk about how each year he notices the small but massive changes as a firefighter. “You look forward to doing your laundry and taking your boots off.” These wildfires should not be disregarded and thought of as just another fire. These fires affect many natural resources and the public’s health more than anybody could ever imagine, and everyone needs to be cautious about the environment before it’s too late.