The Oakland Post

Community reacts to California wildfires

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Community reacts to California wildfires

courtesy of Business Insider

courtesy of Business Insider

courtesy of Business Insider

Taylor Crumley, Staff Reporter

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Wildfires continue to ferociously scorch and wreak havoc across the state of California, leaving thousands without homes and millions on edge.

According to CNN, California’s Woolsey Fire has been the most devastating in state history, leaving behind a death toll of 77 and nearly 1,000 people still missing. Over 10,000 homes have been destroyed by the fire, which has left an area the size of Chicago completely barren. The mountainous terrain of the affected areas makes it even harder and more costly to put the fires out.

According to the California Chaparral Institute, many of the fires that have been spreading across California are in areas of “chaparral,” or dry, tangled shrubs and bushes. Chaparral is California’s largest native plant community and dominates the mountainous land.

“Humans are the most likely cause of wildfires,” said Gerry Pink, the lead arborist of the City of Rochester Hills. “There are large areas of plants with low moisture content from the lack of rainfall. A fire started in an area with large amounts of dry plant material surrounded by an air mass of extremely low humidity, being blown by a hot gale like the Santa Anna winds — I couldn’t imagine trying to contain something like that.”

All it takes to start a wildfire is a spark and a gust of wind. These minuscule acts can do unfathomable damage. Aside from the physical damage to human culture that has been done to areas like Malibu and Thousand Oaks, there are environmental effects as well that can be felt across the country.

The wildfires not only affect people’s homes and suburban areas, but also ecosystems and animal habitats. Carbon is released in these wildfires and proves to be detrimental to our global health as a whole.

“The problem with carbon is that, in the form of methane and carbon dioxide, it is a greenhouse gas,” said Megan Jamison, vice president of the Oakland University Ecology Club. “[This] means that it traps infrared radiation — heat — from the sun and prevents it from escaping our atmosphere, which makes the Earth warmer.”

California and western states in particular are very apt to having wildfires. It is not only caused from periods of drought. The San Francisco Chronicle attests the severity of California wildfires to its cluttered forests. Dead trees and piles of logs fill the forest floor as a lack of upkeep by California government.

Even President Donald Trump, according to BBC News, said that the California wildfires are caused by “mismanagement.” On Twitter, he tweeted threatening to withhold federal payments to California if they do not get their forest management under control.

Firefighters have spent over $600,000 just fighting the fire itself, nearly doubling the annual fire budget, according to CNN. That does not even include the tens of billions in damage and the lives lost.

Considering these fires started on federal land, if California were to use its budgeted federal money to manage its forests they would not have to deal with these continuous costly tragedies according to The Guardian.

Forest fires are deadly natural disasters that can sweep across miles of land extremely quickly. Overall, prevention is the key to ensure clean air, healthy forests and safety of the people in these areas that are at risk.

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Oakland University's independent student newspaper.