Wildfires Rage in California

California has recently been swept by the worst forest fires in history. So far 7,000 homes and offices have been destroyed. Forty-two people are dead, and hundreds more are still missing. Around 15,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes, and many of them don’t know the status of their homes. According to CBS News, it is estimated that one billion dollars worth of damage has been done to insured property during these fires. Among the damage are also around thirty vineyards that have been destroyed or damaged by the fire. However, the damage is still expected to rise.

 

Since the start of the fires earlier last week people have been asking how this could have gotten out of hand so quickly. The simple answer is this: the conditions created the perfect storm. The heat and drought meant that there was plenty of dry plants for the fire to catch on. The absence of rain only made matters worse, and the high wind caused the fires to spread rapidly.

 

These fires will leave damage in California for the next couple of decades. Natural disasters such as these do not just come and go. I have spent a lot of time in the local Pemi Wilderness, where the effects of a natural disaster that happened years ago can still be seen today; such as on top of one of the Bonds, a blow-out from an ice storm that hit in the 1990s can still be seen. On most of the mountains such as a ravine on Mt. Washington there are still the washouts, and trees down from hurricane Irene, which hit in 2011. I remember when I was in middle school, I went to Joshua Tree National Park with my parents; we hiked through an area where all of the trees had been burned away five decades earlier, but none of the vegetation had regrown.

 

The forest fires in California will not be an event that is soon forgotten, as their after-effects will be felt long after they disappear from the news headlines.