top of page

Raging flames and falling ash: Firefighters combat largest fires in Calif. history

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

By Miranda Lu and Norah Shen Sep. 16, 2020

Beomhee Kim Art


From Aug. 15 to Aug. 22, almost 12,000 lightning strikes hit cities across Calif., including Santa Cruz, San Mateo and Vacaville. Shortly afterwards, two of the biggest fires in history and 650 other smaller fires began burning, charring over 3.1 million acres of land across the state, according to The Washington Post. As a result, the fires destroyed thousands of homes, forced residents to evacuate and worsened the air quality.

The lightning storm in the San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit counties, also known as the CZU Lightning Complex, was partially responsible for igniting the hundreds of wildfires in the region. Furthermore, the unusually high amount of humidity brought by the heat wave formed thunder and lightning clouds, and wind added fuel to the flames. However, in other regions of the state, the advent of climate change is leading to the lack of runoff from the Sierra Nevada and resulting in moisture making vegetation more susceptible to catching on fire. Thus, the severe heat waves and arid climate caused by global warming have ultimately led to longer fire seasons and an increased severity of fires in Calif. by 800 percent in the past five decades, according to The Atlantic.

...severe heat waves and ... global warming have ultimately led to longer fire seasons and an increased severity of fires in Calif. by 800 percent in the past five decades, according to The Atlantic.

While neither climate change nor wildfires are new to the state, the recent Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated this year’s wildfires. For instance, Calif. fire departments have relied on incarcerated firefighters for decades, but due to the virus, the fire departments are facing an even larger shortage in the number of firefighters available. CNBC reports that over half of the inmate fire crews are missing because they were released or under quarantine to prevent the spread of the virus.

Not only is Covid-19 causing a shortage of firefighters, but it is also making evacuation more difficult. According to The Mercury News, evacuation shelters—school gymnasiums, community centers and senior living centers—have become cramped as organizers strive to enforce social distancing and sanitation. In addition, the fires are causing a substantial decrease in air quality, closing many beaches, parks and Covid-19 testing centers. Consequently, fewer people have the opportunity to get tested for Covid-19, increasing the risk of the virus spreading in Calif.

In response to these challenges, Gov. Gavin Newsom requested assistance from Canada, Australia, other states and the National Guard. While the firefighters initially made little progress in battling the fires, they have now made major headway: containing 91 percent of the CZU complex as of Sept. 15, according to CBS Bay Area.

While the firefighters initially made little progress in battling the fires, they have now made major headway: containing 91 percent of the CZU complex as of Sept. 15, according to CBS Bay Area.

“The news indicates that the containment of fires and evacuation are going as smoothly as possible. Although the fires are not fully contained yet, the firefighters are still making decent progress despite the current conditions,” Freshman Elaine Ju said.

In response to the increasing number of wildfires, Gov. Newsom also proposed a $500 million plan to help prevent and prepare for future fires. According to the Los Angeles Times, this proposal mandates companies to buy permits before releasing greenhouse gases, allocates funding to invest in technology that better predicts and tracks fires and employs hundreds more firefighters.

“Current events have put Californians through unforeseen troubling times, and because of this, I think Gov. Newsom’s response in presenting fire prevention plans was a good decision. The pandemic coupled with these recent fires have wrecked the livelihoods of numerous people around the state; they are going to need all the help they can get,” Junior Shraya Pal said.


Updated Oct. 5, 2020: Fixed formatting errors.

 

About the Contributors


Miranda Lu is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer. She enjoys hiking, reading, and watching movies in her free time.








Norah Shen is a freshman at Leland High School and is a new staff writer. She likes to read, listen to music, and relentlessly tease her younger sister.








60 views0 comments

Comments


Screen Shot 2024-02-24 at 7.54.40 PM.png
Screen Shot 2024-02-24 at 7.55.49 PM.png

Facebook

Have any questions? Want to make any suggestions? Contact us at 

We'll reply as soon as we can!

  • Facebook
  • Instagram

Notice any mistakes?

Contact us here!

Recent Articles

Screen Shot 2024-02-24 at 7.55.11 PM.png
bottom of page