Fires burn record-breaking levels of acreage across California

Alex Ianonne | Banner | An abandoned van sits facing a smoldering pile of ashes that can be seen underneath an overpass.

Roughly 7,452 fires have broken out across California in 2020.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Aug. 18 as a result of severe wildfires. Following this announcement, the White House passed California’s request for a presidential major disaster declaration  on Aug. 22 to help support the state’s emergency response to the fire.

“Thank you to the president for your partnership and granting this urgent Major Disaster Declaration,” Newsom said in a press release. “California is battling two of the largest fires in our history and has seen nearly 600 new fires in the last week caused by dry lightning strikes. These are unprecedented times and conditions, but California is strong. We will get through this.”

Dry thunderstorms roared across Northern California starting Aug. 16 and continued  through Aug. 19. A dry storm occurs when there is thunder or lighting without any precipitation. This dry storm occurred due to moisture from offshore tropical storms.

In these storms, most of the precipitation evaporates before it hits the ground. During the days of the dry thunderstorms, there were about 53,000 lightning strikes, which caused additional fires to arise.

Kaia Shrum, sophomore chemistry major, is from Northern California where the fires have been severe. Shrum could not see fires from her house but could see and smell smoke from them.

“It is scary and heartbreaking,” Shrum said. “It shows how climate change affected the environment and how unstable things are. The fires could destroy people’s lives which is very scary.”

Ashley Anderson, sophomore commercial performance major, is from the area as well. Anderson had moved into California Baptist University when the fires began so she did not see them from her house. However, her parents saw the fire and ash on their property. Anderson said some restaurants near her house had to close because the air quality was too unhealthy to be open for outdoor dining.

“The fires are tragic and sad,” Anderson said. “I hope all of the fires are able to be contained soon.”

Fires in California have increased since last year. Newsom said in 2019, 4,292 fires destroyed about 56,000 acres of land. In 2020, there have been about 7,002 fires, 1.4 million acres burned and about 12,000 structures destroyed. Fires can take place any time of year, but the peak wildfire season starts in July and lasts through November.

The S.C.U lightning complex is a group of about 20 fires east of Silicon Valley and is considered the second largest fire in California history, burning 396,000 acres. It is 95% contained as of Sept. 8.

As the heat continues to rise, these fires are still occurring and destroying parts of California and the extreme heatwave taking place is contributing to the fires as well.

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