The California Wildfires, Explained

BY JOSHUA YANG   SEPT. 4, 2020
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Introduction: what should I know?

  • The 2020 wildfires have currently consumed 1.8 million acres of land,1 with that figure expected to increase, as California’s wildfire season has not yet concluded.
  • Seven deaths have been reported and at least 3,749 buildings have been destroyed.2
  • Wildfire smoke has reduced air quality in much of Northern California to unhealthy levels.3
  • Evacuations have been ordered for more than 8000 California residents.5

Context: just how bad is this?

  • California governor Gavin Newsom says the 2020 California wildfire season is 25 times worse than that of last year’s.6
    • However, 2019 actually was an unusually successful fire fighting season in comparison with previous years.
  • Thus, in comparison to multiple previous years’ data, the California wildfire season may not be 25 times worse than the past.

Takeaways: what are the larger implications?

  • Due to global warming, California has grown warmer by 3 degrees Fahrenheit since the last century. As a result, vegetation dries out more—and burns more easily.11
    • The severity of recent wildfires is almost certainly a result of global warming.
  • Schools authorized to offer partial in-person instruction have been forced to rollback plans due to poor air quality.14
    • Schools in distance learning have also been impacted; rolling blackouts render online education impossible.
    • According to CalMatters,17 more than 70,000 students have been affected by the wildfires.

One Great Quote.

“It’s unconscionable what we’ve done to the young. It’s not their fault, and we’re destroying their planet,” [sixth-grade teacher Holiday] Smith said. “I’m 42 years old, I’ve got plenty of life left. But I think about my students and I think about what they’re going to go through their whole lives and their lifetime with the (climate change) crisis that we’ve created and it just does not feel like there is the urgency that there should be to be combating this crisis.”

CalMatters: Wildfires set school plans ablaze for more than 70,000 students


References: where can I get more information?

  1. https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/
  2. Ibid.
  3. https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article245377315.html
  4. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/08/21/california-evacuation-centers-wildfires-amid-coronavirus/3408582001/
  5. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/04/climate/hurricane-isaias-apple-fire-climate.html
  6. https://abc7news.com/2020-fires-are-25-times-worse-than-2019-newsom-says/6386170/
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/nov/01/california-wildfire-season-2019
  8. https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/2017/
  9. https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/2018/
  10. https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/2019
  11. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2019/10/climate-change-california-power-outage/
  12. Ibid.
  13. https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/08/20/1007478/california-wildfires-climate-change-heatwaves/
  14. https://www.sfchronicle.com/education/article/Schools-reopening-Santa-Clara-is-first-Bay-Area-15515968.php
  15. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/04/climate/hurricane-isaias-apple-fire-climate.html
  16. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-california-wildfire-pg-e-explainer/explainer-california-faces-decade-of-unique-wildfire-blackouts-idUSKBN1XW1AF
  17. https://calmatters.org/education/2020/08/wildfires-school-plans-students/?_gl=1*4kseqp*_ga*YW1wLWlVa0RRYTNDMm5QeDgzYXJKMGo2eWc.