Wildfires Plague Southern California in October


January 14, 2018

As Santa Ana winds continue to blow strong and fan the fires, wildfire season continues in Northern California, experiencing some of the worst and most devastating wildfires in history. The current October wildfires, occurring on October 8th and 9th and persisting throughout the month, have become the deadliest wildfires in the history of wildfires in California, claiming 42 victims.  

The fires have also burned a total of 245,000 acres of land and destroyed an estimated 8400 structures, forcing around 100,000 people to evacuate from their homes despite the 11,000 firefighters struggling to contain the pervasive fires. The current damages cost around 3 billion dollars.

By October 12th, smoke and air particulates generated by the wildfires led the city of Napa to rank the nation’s poorest air quality, and by October 13th, air quality in Napa reached the “hazardous” level, the highest level on the EPA’s scale. As the smoke spread the air quality was registered unhealthy in cities like San Francisco where the state university was forced to cancel classes and outdoor activities. The smoke also resulted in visibility issues, causing nearly 280 flights to be canceled over 3 days.

 Starting this year, state law in California now requires cities and counties to address the potential risks of climate change, which should compel communities affected by wildfires to address the issue and potential solutions. as conditions in California grow hotter and drier as a result of climate change. Along with the current October wildfires, two of the three largest wildfires in California’s history have happened in the last four years. As a result of climate change, conditions in California grow hotter and drier, and models estimate that fire intensity will rise by 4 to 5 times the current peak values by the end of this century. With a drier and hotter future climate, fire management could be challenged beyond their current capabilities, resulting in a substantial increase of larger fires.

(Satellite picture of the fires on October 9th)

Sources:

http://calfire.ca.gov/communications/communications_StatewideFireSummary

https://www.c2es.org/science-impacts/extreme-weather/drought

http://www.energy.ca.gov/2005publications/CEC-500-2005-190/CEC-500-2005-190-SF.PDF

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB379

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Live-updates-23-dead-in-Wine-Country-fires-12271728.php