West Coast Wildfires Continue Alongside Pandemic
As the United States battles a pandemic, citizens on the west coast face the additional threat of widespread wildfires mostly spanning California, Oregon, and Washington state. The fires are reported to have begun spreading in mid to late August due to severe thunderstorms in California and a gender reveal party gone wrong.
The extreme weather, characterized by record breaking heat waves and lightning, set the stage for an uncontrollable blaze to cut its path up the coast.
One of the California fires was caused by a gender reveal party where a smoke firework was irresponsibly set off in a dry area of El Dorado county. A nearby bush subsequently caught on fire and the flames spread damage across the region.
The impacts of the fires have been devastating. As of September 13, the death toll is known to be at least 33 people from across the three states. Thousands have been evacuated or plan to evacuate, and many have lost their homes to the flames.
Neighborhoods, commercial areas, and forests have been charred while firefighters desperately attempt to counter the blaze. In California especially, the fire fighting system is under incredible strain. Firefighters are spread thin across the scattered fires, working long shifts with little relief. For Oregon, a group of firefighters from Mexico called the “Heroic Fire Department of Guanajuato” have lived up to their name and arrived in Ashland to help combat the flames.
As smoke continues to rise, air quality decreases throughout western America and even parts of Canada. The sky in these areas has taken on a thick orange fog that makes it not only hard to see, but to breathe as well.
Even more worrisome, this puts west coast residents at a higher risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms. This, partnered with the thousands displaced from their homes, has many officials concerned that cases will rise in the area.
This disaster has sparked another conversation about climate change and politics. The record breaking fires are also due to rising temperatures, longer fire seasons, and drier conditions. All three of these factors are credited to climate change.
Unsurprisingly, this has led to a push for climate action from the Trump administration, which has failed to recognize climate change as the cause for the fires. Instead, President Donald Trump has blamed the disaster on poor forest management.