Wildfire in California Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Wildfires in California

In the United States in the states of California, there have been many wildfires. A wildfire is defined as uncontrolled fire in an area where vegetation such as trees and grasses made the fire even more dangerous. These yearly occurrences have led to the deaths of many people and also thousands of homes which have been lost to fire and the aftermath. The situation has only gotten worse in the last decade with global warming and climate change making fires all the more dangerous and more easily spread. Wildfires in California have also increased pollution and left devastation for animal wildlife. Unless the wildfires of California are somehow put into control, then the situation will continue to worsen and many more people will die and find themselves without homes. There are many reasons which cause California wildfires and they must each be dealt with to solve the problem and to ensure that wildfires do not continue.

According to experts, wildfires can occur in two ways. Cathleen Corbitt-Dipierro (2012) states:

First, convected heat causes the fire to spread from low vegetation such as grasses, underbrush and leaf litter (ground fuels) to higher vegetation (aerial fuels) such as tree branches, often via the mid-sized vegetation. In this phase, the fire grows vertically. As the fire increases in intensity and size, involving fuels at all levels, radiant heat becomes the primary method of spread at both the aerial and ground fuel levels, and the fire grows laterally.

In 2012, the wildfires in California were arguably the most dangerous that they have been in recorded history. In August, one fire alone was responsible for burning more than 5,000 acres of the Californian landscape had been ravaged by fires (CNN 2012). Thousands of acres are being destroyed daily when these fires are completely out of control. This is just one example of the devastation that fire can make on the dry grasses and forests of the state. In the first half of 2012 alone California reported nearly 43,000 wildfires which burned nearly 7,000,000 acres in the United States (CNN Residents 2012). It is believed that the worst fires occur in October because this is the end of the summer season and before the wet season of winter begins. Leaves and dead foliage fall to the ground when there has been the longest period between the former rains of the previous winter (Parent 2009). It is believed that each and every year the wildfires of California get exponentially worse. For example, in 2001 500,000 acres were burned but by 2008 more than one million had been in a single year. Science has proven that each year the situation worsens.

One of the reasons for the prevalence of California wildfires is the Santa Anna winds. These are hot, dry winds which push decrease the humidity of the area. Because of their danger and their breadth, they have been often called the Devil's Breath. According to NPR's John Nielsen (2007):

These winds begin when masses of cold air form over high desert plateaus in Utah

and Nevada. The winds that spin off of these high pressure systems grow warmer, dryer and stronger as they spill south and west, down through mountain canyons towards the ocean. When the winds are moderate, they blow air pollution out to sea and make life in Southern California more pleasant.

When the humidity drops, it dries out the forests and other greenery. Sometimes, a thunderstorm happens and lightning strikes the ground debris. If lightning strikes this dry land, it starts a fire which spreads out of control and can possibly burn every single thing in its path. According to author Jason Parent (2009), "Autumn is the season for the ferocious Santa Ana winds to sweep in from the northeastern deserts, gaining speed through narrow mountain canyons, sapping moisture from vegetation and pushing flames farther out into the suburbs." The winds carry any potential burning embers to the dry leaves and branches. The Santa Ana winds can carry the fiery embers miles from the ignition point to vast locations far away, spreading untold levels of destruction.

Another possible reason for the wildfires is if a control burn goes out of hand and spreads farther than was planned. A controlled or prescribed fire is one which is started to reduce hazardous materials. It is used to manage the undergrowth and overgrowth of the forests, to clear room for farming, and to balance out greenhouse gases. Foresters use controlled burns but sometimes, other factors lead to the increase of the fires beyond the control of those who began the fires. There are also instances of back burning (What 2009). This process is utilized when there is a fire and flammable materials are reduced by starting small fires or firebreaks in front of larger fires so that the fire cannot continue past that barrier. Unfortunately, this does not always work.

Human beings and neglect are a major cause of the spreading of wildfires. In fact, "sixty percent of these fires are caused by humans" (Parent 2009). Another report from 2012 claims that people are responsible for 90% of the wildfires that spread throughout the state of California (Corbitt-Dipierro 2012). This human interaction can be intentional like from arson or it could be accidental such as if a camper did not put out their campfire properly. According to Deputy Incident Commander Carlton Joseph (2009), "Humans may cause wildfires in various ways, ranging from a dropped cigarette to a spark from a lawnmower." Anything could create a spark and set dry grass and plants on fire which can have horrendous results. Arson is the intentional setting of fires with the intent of destroying land and property through the flames. On case of arson was found to have been caused by the actions of a 10-year-old boy (Parrish 2007). Human interaction is the easiest form of wildfire causation to prevent. People can do many things to avoid setting unintentional fires. They can be careful with their matches, put out cigarettes and cigars properly, make sure they only set fireworks over water and burn compost and trash materials with controlled, supervised fires (Parent 2009). If everyone does their part, then at least some of the wildfires that occur in California can be prevented.

The wildfires in California and throughout the world can have major problems in the environment of the locations where the fires burn. When the fire burns the grass, homes are destroyed, but these are not the only people whose homes are destroyed. All the grassland and forests are home to animal life as well whose homes are ruined by the spread of the fires. Animals that depend on small bushes or shady areas for protection or to build homes do not do well in regions which are constantly impacted by wildfires (Yang 2012). These poor animals have their homes taken and they have to either die or relocate to other areas. When this happens, it upsets the whole ecosystem. The animals which feed on the ones who have to move have no source of food and so they too will die out or have to move on to another source of food to satiate them.

Environmental hazards can happened because of the California wildfires as well. For example, according to the United States' Department of the Interior, "the secondary effects of wildfires, including erosion, landslides, introduction of invasive species, and changes in water quality, are often more disastrous than the fire itself" (Parent 2009). The loss of the grass and trees leaves lots of exposed ground. When there is finally rain, there is a huge risk that the land can flood over and spill out into homes and other communities. Researchers have been able to prove that the California wildfires degraded the quality of the…

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