California continues to be plagued by wildfires during arid fall season

By Erin Maxwell || Staff Writer

At least eight fires continue to burn in California as mass evacuations and blackouts plague millions of the state’s residents. The wildfire season emerged in full force on October 7 with the Taboose Fire – the first of what would become fourteen separate fires in the month of October alone. As of last Sunday, California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) reported that 162,600 acres of land have been destroyed and three fire-related deaths have occurred. 

The fires have been steadily moving in a southwest direction, spreading from Sonoma County to areas in and around Los Angeles.  Panic arose earlier this week when it was reported that the flames were in the area of the famed Getty Museum, which houses over 125,000 pieces of historic art. The area has since been declared safe and remains secure.  Although firefighters have made great progress, the state is bracing for the Santa Ana winds to pick up in the next few months, threatening greater destruction.

After declaring a statewide emergency, Governor Gavin Newsom pointed a finger not only at the arid climate and wind but at the mismanagement of electrical companies. According to TIME magazine, he claims the mismanagement is “putting the lives of millions of Californians at risk.” One of the more recent and uncontrolled fires, the Maria Fire, has been under heavy investigation due to its mysterious origins.  According to CAL FIRE, the fire first broke out mere minutes after South California Edison had re-energized one of their power lines. Following this news, many power companies chose to participate in targeted blackouts, which prevented further risk of wildfire but also left countless Californians in the dark. Newsom has since promised that companies will be held accountable for any damage and malpractice.

Although more moderate weather with fewer windy days has made fires less prevalent this year than in the past, the Santa Ana winds are keeping officials vigilant.  This season has been an exception to an overall frightening trend rising temperatures and dry weather posing tangible danger to a wider population. Since the early 1970’s, the average temperature for warm-season days has increased by 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit.  This poses a real threat, as warmer days lead to drier land, which can erupt into flames from just a spark. Additionally, the wildfire season itself has lengthened by nearly 75 days and the fires have increased in size by about 500 %. When asked about this issue by CNN, former California governor Jerry Brown stated, “This is only a taste of the horror and terror that will occur in decades.”

First-year Erin Maxwell is a staff writer. Her email is emaxwell@fandm.edu.

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