Gusting winds, months of drought and other conditions for the perfect storm have caused a record-setting year for California wildfires. Thousands of structures have been destroyed, and the fires have killed first responders and civilians.
Firefighters work to “steer” the fire toward the ocean or a highway, or toward steep and rocky areas with little vegetation – but gusting winds and floating embers make their jobs much harder.
“There is so much energy and so much intensity that we cannot stop them with conventional means,” said David Peterson, a senior research biologist with the U.S. Forest Service. “In these fires, we have to allow them to burn until there’s a period of high humidity and rain that helps reduce the temperature of fire enough to control it.”
Peterson says most of the fires – up to 99 percent – in Southern California are caused by humans. He notes that it’s not something as simple as throwing a cigarette butt out a window, but other things people do every day (like parking a car on dry grass or even mowing the lawn) can cause a wildfire to kick off.
According to Scott McLean, an information officer at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, a rock hitting a lawn mower’s metal blades can create a spark that ends up starting a fire. McLean says that because California has faced a serious drought over the past five years, there’s a lot of dead vegetation all over the state – and that’s what fuels the fire.
“There’s a long road ahead of us. The fires we’ve dealt with recently, like the Thomas Fire, are all indicators of what we’re having to deal with in California for the next few years,” said McLean.
What Do You Think?
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