The West Coast of America is on fire. The devastating wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington have decimated over 5 million acres of land and resulted in the world’s most dangerous air quality for millions of Americans.
San Francisco residents woke up to apocalyptic blood-orange skies last week and had to turn their lights on at 11 am. The sun could not shine through the pyrocumulonimbus — “fire thunderstorms” — or the raining ash.
‘These are climate fires’
For the past three weeks, the wildfires have raged through millions of acres, burning several towns beyond recognition and killing at least 20 people. After one week where firefighters struggled to contain the deadly blazes, President Trump traveled to California.
He placed the blame on poor forest management.
Experts in wildfires and forest management disagree: “these are climate fires.” Timothy Ingalsbee is the Director of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology. Based in Oregon, he has seen the devastation and tragedy. There is no doubt in his mind.
He concedes that few scientists will link one event to climate change, but points out that “these are exactly the conditions predicted by climatologists.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom went even further.
Jay Inslee, the Governor of Washington, echoes the sentiment. His state has been battling raging wildfires for nearly a month.
Oregon has the world’s worst air
If you are reading this in Oregon, you are breathing the worst air in the world right now.
The combination of a 30-year drought, high-speed winds, and extreme weather has proved fatal for the state. The wildfires have scorched over one million acres, and some of the state’s fire-fighting fleet of helicopters are currently stationed in Afghanistan.
Ingalsbee reported on the situation in Oregon, where firefighters continue to battle two dozen explosive wildfires burning thousands of acres a day, to Democracy Now!.
He conceded that for Oregon, big fires in the mountains are normal. What is unprecedented is having the wildfires “barreling down our valleys” and reaching major urban areas.
He also noted that the smoke is “blotting out the sun” and grounding entire fleets of air tankers and helicopters. As a fire ecologist, Ingalsbee sheds light on why these wildfires have been so devastating.
The explanation came with a grim warning: “they will become much more frequent in the days ahead.”
Inglasbee points out that while the current administration needs to acknowledge that climate change has caused these wildfires, forest management does play a small factor. He explains that the winds are hurtling through industrial tree farms from the 1970s and ’80s. Young trees burn through much easier and quicker than older forests.
The ecosystem is damaged from decades of logging, livestock grazing, and mining. Today, rural sprawl means the wildfires are deadlier than ever before, because “so many people are in the pathway of these fires.”
No amount of firefighters…will be able to handle phenomena like this
The expert in wildfires and fire ecology had a stark observation about the current crisis.
Unless we “get a handle on our fossil fuel emissions,” we are virtually powerless in the face of these climate fires.
Ingalsbee likens the wildfire to the pandemic: “it makes no distinction between rich and poor.” While wealthier landholdings could hire private firefighters, today even city dwellers are at risk of having their homes burn down from the forest fires. He cautions; “It just takes one home to ignite, and then we have house-to-house ignitions, like a domino effect.”
This article was reposted with permission from Front Page Live.
Photo credit for image at top: Pixabay
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