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The Burning of California, and Causes?

Fires! Every year, fires in California. Is this a natural cycle?  climate change? forest mismanagement? overpopulation? arson? Or? Questions like these have plagued residents of the state of California for decades. In fact, I can precisely tell you the year in which the reality of California wildfires was embedded into the national consciousness. In 2003, in one evening of late summer in San Diego, I thought nothing of leaving my bedroom window open to enjoy the fresh sea air. The next morning, however, I was awakened to a hideous surprise: my entire bedroom was covered in ash. As I looked out of my window to the sky above, wondering where the ash had come from. I bore witness to the chocolate brown sky above and the first major wildfire

Fires! Every year, fires in California. Is this a natural cycle?  climate change? forest mismanagement? overpopulation? arson? Or?

Questions like these have plagued residents of the state of California for decades. In fact, I can precisely tell you the year in which the reality of California wildfires was embedded into the national consciousness.

In 2003, in one evening of late summer in San Diego, I thought nothing of leaving my bedroom window open to enjoy the fresh sea air. The next morning, however, I was awakened to a hideous surprise: my entire bedroom was covered in ash.

As I looked out of my window to the sky above, wondering where the ash had come from. I bore witness to the chocolate brown sky above and the first major wildfire I had ever been affected by while living in San Diego.

It seems like every year the fires in California get worse. Last year the city of Malibu experienced a hellish nightmare. The internet exploded with videos of celebrity homes on fire, fires approaching major and world’s busiest freeways (Los Angeles 101 and 405). These were tragic scenes of lives lost in attempts to escape the fires.

The acreage burned by wildfires has increased drastically in the last 10 years. More acres have burned this year in California than ever before. (Image: Cal-Fire)

Late summer and fall have been the historic times when the California inferno comes alive. But it also seems that every year the breadth of fire season extends to new boundaries. There are many who claim that this is literally the smoking gun of climate change.

Others however believe that forest mismanagement, and environmentalism are to blame. To summarize this viewpoint briefly: Tree’s naturally die, as well as overgrow. If human beings do not clear out this underbrush and maintain the forest, the chances of the debris becoming a tinderbox increase.

To take a recent example, the Redwood National Forest, a well maintained and frequently visited national park, has by and large survived a recent onslaught of wildfires in the park’s history. The massive redwood trees there, including the iconic 329ft “Mother of the Forest” tree, made it through the blaze caused by CZU Lightning Complex Fire late August this year. While in the rest of the state, the fires destroyed 1.2millions acres, killed a dozen people and put over 250,000 under evacuation orders. How did the park manage their trees?

Most of park’s houses, bridges and structures were burned to the ground.  Next to the rubble of the headquarters, the “Auto Tree” — where visitors drove through with their cars— still stands, the base was scorched and the top blasted off by the firestorm. But, like other large redwoods, it was protected by thick, flame-resistant bark, and it will regenerate its bark and grow taller next year.

A blaze in Big Basin Redwoods State Park on a night of August 18, 2020. Firefighters have saved two stranded citizens in the park. (Photo: Justin Silvera/Cal Fire)

Many giant redwoods were burned and damaged, some could not be saved after all. “If we can do it controlled, we can get these down without them falling on the redwood trees that are still standing,” said William Christianson, whose tree-service company is working for Cal Fire to cut down those falling trees.

Those trees were born in 544 A.D., their ancient ecosystems are adapted to rely on fire to nourish their lives through disasters. California State Parks environmental scientist Ryan Diller said. “It creates jackpots of fuel that lead to catastrophic wildfires”.

If forest management has little to do with the problem, we’d have to ask ourselves: what is causing these yearly wildfires in California? Many are quick to point to man-made climate change, even though California has some of the strictest environmental laws in the U.S. Ask any California resident who must go through the additional hassle of getting a smog check on their vehicle before being allowed car registration every year.

Yet evidence of much more sinister happenings seem to be appearing: Arson! The intentional setting of fires during Santa Ana winds. During the summer months, areas of the inland desert become so naturally hot that great winds are generated, blowing from the inland regions to the coast; and while this is great for surfers whose waves are guaranteed to be improved by the wind, it is the perfect opportunity for arsonists to set inland fires ablaze, hoping to cause eventual destruction to the cities.

Arrests have been made throughout the years as police officers catch those anarchists setting fires outside of major California cities. Could it be that the past 15 years of horrendous fires have been a loosely coordinated effort to burn down California? Some problematic minds just want to see the world burn.

Others may point out that this is just a natural cycle. Wildfires are normal. It has simply been exacerbated by certain factors: overpopulation, forest mismanagement, climate change, and arsonists. California Governor Gavin Newsom, in a recent press conference pointed out that some recent fires were caused by lightning strikes.

Map showing California fire incidents in 2020 as of September 18. Image by Cal Fire.
Map showing California fire incidents in 2020 as of September 18. (Image: Cal Fire)

“About a month ago, literally to the day, we began to have a series of 14,000 lightning strikes over a three-day period; 1,100 fires have sparked; 3.4 million acres, just within a month, have burned — unprecedented in California history; 3.2 million over the course of this calendar year.” Newsom said.

14,000 lightning strikes in 3 days? That breaks down to about 3 lightning strikes per minute. This historical Mother Nature response has never been heard of.

Climate change is a global phenomenon, but the world’s most beautiful coastline state, California, has become the worst target in recent years. While government is still struggling with its solution, people around the world are worrying about California on their TVs, perhaps only, Californians can solve their own problems.


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