California scorching: Is anything being done about the wildfires?

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More recent California wildfires ‘last longer and affect larger areas.’

More recent California wildfires ‘last longer and affect larger areas.’

By Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D.

Standing out as a concern of boundless proportions is how historic wildfires have been battering California. Amid the current frequency of such tragedies, once more, the role of climate change has arisen prominently.

President Trump has laid the blame on California’s management of forests. Too, the 45th president has included water management as the other culprit.

Among those who responded to the need for information were staff scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley Hills.

Michael Wehner, a senior staff scientist, underscored how “there is no question that warming temperatures have led to severe droughts.” He explained the degree of severity of the situation and described how droughts are confronted with “more dry fuel, as well as more intense heat waves.”

He further discussed how the same conditions precipitated “wildfire seasons that start earlier, last longer and affect larger areas.”

Reports from the National Climate Assessment state that “the number of large forest fires in the Western United States and Alaska is projected to rise as the climate continues to warm.”

Scientists and forest management experts have shared a unanimity in their statements that Trump’s tweets linking California’s environmental laws and water regulations to the wildfires was “scientifically and factually inaccurate.”

Paradoxically, Trump urged that California “must also tree clear to stop fire spreading.” Yet, state officials have made emphatic how California allocated more than $250 million in state funds this year alone in efforts to reduce the risk of wildfires.

William Stewart, a forestry specialist at UC-Berkeley, explained the role of water resources in wildfire management and firefighting. He said leaving “less water for fish would have no impact on amount(s) available for fighting fires…Water comes from local streams and rivers, where water-dropping helicopters drop their buckets.”
Since California is the most heavily-populated state in the Union, it did not come as a surprise to learn how it has battled wildfires burning acres upon acres of its land. Annals of the Golden State’s historical records show the extent and size of fires since 1933.

Where to begin: Picking up the pieces after homes and properties go up in flames.

Where to begin: Picking up the pieces after homes and properties go up in flames.

• The first-recorded fire was known as the Griffith Park Observatory conflagration with the well-acclaimed view of the Hollywood sign. At that time, it was called the “deadliest fire in Los Angeles history.” About 30 workers perished and 47 acres were destroyed.

• In 1964, the Wine Country fires happened hitting Napa and Sonoma counties. About 53,000 acres were burned.

• Year 1970 saw the Laguna Fire in San Diego County then called the “worst of wildfires” because it lasted four days. It is said that within 24 hours, the fire had covered 30 miles.

• Santa Barbara County in 1990 went through what was dubbed as the “Painted Cave Fire,” determined as the result of arson. One person died and hundreds of homes were razed to the ground.

• The “Tunnel Fire” took place in 1991 in the Oakland Hills. It was called “deadly fire” through the hills of North Oakland and southeastern Berkeley on a weekend: Twenty-five people perished;150 were injured; 2,843 single-family homes; and 437 apartments and condos were destroyed.

• San Bernardino went through what was named the “Fire Siege of 2003.” It took six lives and consumed more than 90,000 acres in the San Bernardino mountains. More than 80,000 people had to be evacuated.

• Called the Basin Complex Fire of Monterey County in 2008, the spectacle consumed over 162,818 acres of land in rugged terrain close to Carmel and Big Sur. It is said to be the most expensive fire in California history with a record $120 million spent to put it under control.

• Year 2012 saw the Bush Fire which burned over two weeks from August 12. There were no fatalities.

• The 2015 Valley Fire that took place in Lake County destroyed Harbin Hot Springs which to this date is still on the mend and rebuilding. It remains as the third “most destructive wildfire in state history in terms of structures burned” when the count came up to 1,955. It reported four victims.

• Northern California in 2017 went through what was then named the “deadliest” fire when its cities: Tubbs, Nuns, Atlas, Mendocino Lake Complex, and Cascade contributed to a total burned acreage of 200,000.

Deplorably, with the most recent news, the Mendocino Complex Fire is still raging, as it has been named the longest wildfire in California’s history.

Answers are still being sought: Is President Trump ignoring the plight of Northern Californians as the wildfires have not left the scene?

© The FilAm 2018

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