California and Arizona are in the midst of the 2014 fire season. Even though summer just began, San Diego County alone has faced nearly a dozen wildfires that blackened more than 26,000 acres of land and caused over $20 million in damage. Luckily no one was killed in the blazes, but a fire fighter was injured and thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes.
California is experiencing a prolonged, extreme drought. A premature spring caused the snowpack to melt and infiltrate the soil earlier than normal, meaning that our forests are much drier than they should be. Moving into the summer, the combination of unseasonably high temperatures, dry land, dead trees, low humidity and hot winds has left parts of California highly combustible.
Historically, the California fire season rarely starts so early, but a warming, drier climate is amplifying the intensity and duration of wildfires. In the 1980s, an average of 2.9 million acres of land were destroyed by wildfires each year. Between 2010 and 2013 the average figure had gone up to 6.4 million acres of land a year, and predictions suggest that future years will see a 74% increase in wildfire frequency.
This year we can expect the wildfire season to be worse than ever. The Californian Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has already responded to over 1,500 fires in 2014, compared to 800 during an average year, and although the state has set aside $600 million to help battle the blazes, there are concerns that this won’t be enough.
Nine out of ten wildfires are human-caused, so California citizens must take preemptive action to reduce wildfire occurrences. The following list includes five common causes of wildfires with preventative suggestions:
1. Failure to maintain property
2. Irresponsible outdoor fires
4. Use of machinery and vehicles
Wildfires are chaotic, unpredictable, and destructive. The key to fire reduction is prevention, ensuring that your day-to-day actives are fire-mindful.
As Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant observed: “Weather doesn’t cause wildfires. Weather just causes a fire to burn. It’s people that have the role of actually preventing that fire”
By Louise Bilham