Acres of land has been engulfed by the wildfire in west coast of the United State. More than 400,000 acres have been burned in Northern and Central California, with many of the fires set off by nearly 11,000 lightning strikes with more than 100 wildfires are currently broiling western US state. The chain of fires has become the biggest recorded blaze in Californian history, the worst affected states are Oregon, California and Washington. Entire towns have been ruined in these regions. As of Sep 12, at least 16 people have been confirmed dead and several are missing.
Over 2000 homes and building were went up in smoke. Half a million people have been affected from the affected areas.
The major cause of this uncontrollable and unprecedented heatwaves were intense, dry winds and continuous availability of ignition material namely forest wood which is making situation grave for the firefighters to control it. The orange sky is seen throughout San Francisco and several other regions on the west coast. Recent trends of steadily incremental spike in the forest fires has raised an alarm. As it is said that it requires a streak of spark to transcend into fire, there are chain of events that lead to this devastated incidence in the human history. Dry twigs, scorching heat, gutful winds and millions of lightning strikes have spurt and spread across to almost 21 dispersed fires burning acres of forest cover.
A wildfire, wildland fire or rural fire is an unplanned, unwanted, uncontrolled fire in an area of combustible vegetation starting in rural areas.
Fire is an incredible invention by the early man. It is a resourceful invention of the mankind from lighting the candle, born fires, warming the home, cooking food to melting a metal, the spectrum of its uses is endless. It needs a single spark to ignite a fire and when this spark occurs in a dry forest it creates a havoc situation causing unbearable damages to life and property. Although nature can cause wildfires but the intensity in the past century and the coming years is attributable to mankind. If left uncontrolled or uncontained wildfires have the capacity to destroy an entire ecosystem and spur in climate refugee population at an unprecedented rate.
Two sides of the same coin- On the one hand fire is integral for the forest cleansing yet on the other hand it is disastrous if left unchecked
Why Forest fire is needed?
To clean the diseased plants
To let soil, regain its lost nutrients
To remove forest waste
To open the forest canopy
To let growth of new grasslands
Karner Blue Caterpillar- A caterpillar named Karner Blue food source is a plant called wild lupine. This plant needs fire to reduce the height of the plant which could otherwise outgrow with sunlight. Thus, it means that caterpillar needs fire to finish its lifecycle.
Some of the possible ill effects of forest fires
Damaging the strong and healthy tree
Charred, damaged and harm the soil
Flooding areas where the soil is most severely burned
Harming the Urban wildlife interface
Smoke can cause health and respiratory problems
Unburnt particles can spread to large area and affects the visibility
What makes California wildfire so tragic?
In the winter season California gets much of the moisture and hence its vegetation dries out slowly due to scanty rainfall and toasty temperature. Later this vegetation served as one of the agents of fire. One can say as long as once supplies the dry ingredients then it will lead to blaze. There is an indivisible link between the climate change and the wildlife fires. If we extend this relationship to California the temperature is about 2-3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer now due to global warming. This parched the vegetation briskly.
California is at risk due to the recurring nature of these fires and volatile weather. When we say climate, change is magnifying the results there is another variable which affects it directly- way people have contributed to wildfires: in their choices of where to live. People are increasingly migrating into areas near forests, known as the urban-wildland interface, that are prone to burn.
“California has a really flammable ecosystem,” said University of Colorado fire scientist Jennifer Balch. “People are living in flammable places, providing ignition, starting the wildfires against a backdrop of a warming climate that is making wildfires worse.”
California’s climate sets up ideal conditions for fire and is worsened by the climate change.
Invasive grasses such as Cheat Grass and Mediterranean Grass are bringing by people who migrate to California. But these grasses not being the native ones and catch fire rapidly. Hence these grasses act as an agent or fuel to the fire
Understanding the correlation between the climate change and the bushfires-
An extended Fire season – Warmer condition implies stretching of fire season leading to more menacing bushfires. Leaving less time to mitigate the havoc,
Drier Vegetation and Fuel– Low rainfall means in hotter condition soil dries out which intensifies fire risk in the vegetation.
More Lightening– A key factor to transform spark into a fire is the lightening which saw a spurt in recent time,
Hotter Temperature– With increase in number of hot days the heatwaves are getting bigger and hotter, these incidences escalating the wildfires in many areas.
Stopping the fire, how?
Firefighters fight by reducing or eliminating the source. There are various methods deployed by them to contain the magnitude and source of origin.
Using Water and Fire extinguisher. They often work in team whereby they remove and clear the vegetation surrounding the area. Then they eliminate the source of ignition by removing the fuel
They may use control fires- control fires are intentional fires intended to reduce flammable fuels to meet the desired result of curtailing the fire
Control Line- A river can serve as a natural control line
Cold Trailing- spotting the igniting zone to neutralize their effect
Mop up- Firefighters clean up along a completed control area
Aerial Attack- Using helicopters to drop water in a fire prone area