Wildfires across the west coast have burned millions of acres and displaced thousands of residents during the middle of the pandemic.
According to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, the wildfires started in August in California due to a mix of extreme weather conditions. A heatwave in California and a tropical storm in the Pacific Ocean triggered a lightning storm on August 17th for three days and caused fires across the Bay Area and northern California. Once the humidity dropped, high winds fueled the small fires to dangerous wildfires. The wildfires have spread across the West Coast, including Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.
The wildfires were also caused by a small family. The El Dorado fire was ignited when a family used a pyrotechnic device to signify the gender of a couple’s new baby.
According to California fire officials, fires in California have burned more than 3.1 million acres so far, 26 times higher than what was burned by this time last year.
The wildfires have caused poor air quality across the west coast, specifically in California. Based on the Bay Area Air District, the region’s air pollution control agency, ash, and smoke from the fires caused the skies to look orange in California, and parts of Oregon and Washington. The air quality can worsen symptoms of Covid-19 and make people more contagious if they are infected.
Climate scientists who study wildfires have viewed an increase of fires on the west coast due to global warming. The region has experienced hotter and drier weather that has caused escalated fires and will continue as climate change continues to get worse.
“California is in the midst of an existential climate crisis,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday. “It was just two years ago that this area saw the deadliest wildfire in our history. Now, just a few miles away, another deadly wildfire has ripped through these same communities.”