In the mid-spring of 2018, California began experiencing wildfires in Eastern California. From there, they drastically spread across the state with increasing momentum. Based on the statistics recorded by government agencies, CALFIRE, and the U.S. Forest Service, over 1.6 million acres of land were lost, and the amount of destroyed structures totaled over $2.975 billion in damages.
Alongside of material damage, there was also a staggering amount of civilian and emergency responder casualties. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, as of Nov. 30, 2018, there were 97 civilians and six firefighters killed due to the severity of the wildfires. As for non-fatal injuries, there are at least 80 that have been recorded.
On July 27, 2018, President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in California as raging wildfires threatened thousands of residential areas, and on Aug. 4, Northern California declared natural disaster due to the extent of the wildfires burning. The extensive burning from the wildfires comes with drastic environmental costs. The number of trees and acreage destroyed eradicated habitats for woodland creatures, birds, and other animals to survive in. Another negative effect of the burning includes increased air pollution, with the air quality diminishing with every acre that the fires spread.
One of the most destructive wildfires that affected the residents in California was the Carr fire, which transpired in both Shasta and Trinity counties. Beginning on July 23, 2018, it engulfed both sides of Hwy 299 and Carr Powerhouse Rd. It took five total fire crews, eleven fire engines, and 456 fire personnel to subdue the flames. Of the six total firefighter fatalities that happened, three of those occurred during the attempt to contain the Carr fire. By the end of the blaze, 1,079 residences, 22 commercial structures, and 503 outbuildings were destroyed. Along with this destruction, there was extensive damage to 190 residences, 26 commercial structures, and 61 outbuildings.
One may be wondering, at this point, how the fires actually started. Many different factors led to the 2018 California wildfire season becoming so destructive. A combination of an increased amount of natural fuel and compounding atmospheric conditions linked to climate change led to the extent of damage that was caused by the fires; the main contributor being an increase in dead tree fuel. Based on the information provided by the U.S. Forest Service, by the end of December 2017, there were a recorded 129 million dead trees in California. This, along with the increased temperatures drying out most of the California landscape led to an increased wildfire risk.
However, there is some good news that comes with all this disaster. With the continuous efforts of firefighters and other emergency responders, every single California wildfire has been contained as of Nov. 27, 2018. According to Nifc.gov, in 2017, 88% of wildfires were caused by humans. There are a number of steps we can take in order to prevent forest fires. Some of which include not building campfires if the area prohibits them, not building campfires in dry, hazardous areas, and being aware of low-hanging branches and windy conditions.